PESHAWAR: All Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement (APHRM) Chairman Haroon Sarbdiyal has flayed the government for not allowing non-Muslims to access information through the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Right to Information (RTI) Act 2013.
He was addressing protesters outside Peshawar Press Club on Saturday, the APHRM chief said the organisation had recently sought details about its land held by the Auqaf department. However, the request has not been entertained.
“Social activists managed to convince the Pakistan Peoples Party-led federal government to include Article 19-A of the Constitution into the 18th Constitutional Amendment,” he said. Under the provision, every citizen has the right to access information in all matters of public importance subject to regulations and reasonable restrictions imposed by law.
“The K-P Assembly took the initiative to pass the RTI legislation,” he said. “However, it appears non-Muslims are being kept out of the loop.”
Law of the land
Sarbdiyal also voiced reservations against the cybercrime bill, saying it could sidestep the RTI legislation. Under the bill, the government could curtail access to information under some circumstances.
“Prohibiting access to information will weaken minorities and undermine their civic and political rights,” he said. “The government should not give the bureaucracy authority to hinder the flow of information to citizens. This is a clear violation of the Constitution.”
During the protest, a large number of demonstrators urged the government to ensure a transparent and accountable system of governance.
“Efforts should be made to introduce RTI legislation on the federal level,” he said. “Civil society members should join hands to find ways to effectively utilise the RTI law for the benefit of citizens.”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 11th, 2015.