The Women’s Action Forum (WAF) on Sunday condemned the move by Senator Waleed Iqbal and others before the Senate to pass the Access to Access (Amendment) Act, 2021.
According to a statement issued by the forum, the amendment bill aims to exclude the Senate, National Assembly, their secretariats, committees and members from the definition of “public institution” which is included in section 2 (ix) (c) of the Right. ۔ Access to Information Act, 2017.
According to the “Statement of Object and Reason”, the amendment bill was based on a misunderstanding of the role of Parliament, in the Republic, as a public body, and a deep misunderstanding of constitutional provisions, including Article 69 of the Constitution. Is. The statement said.
“In line with other reactionary laws, rules and policies that have recently been introduced to curtail the right to expression and information, the amendment bill seeks to reverse the right to information protected under Article 19A of the Constitution. Has been tried. ” .
Article 19A of the Constitution explicitly stipulates that the right to information is protected by law: “Every citizen shall have the right to access information in all matters of public interest as provided by law and Subject to sanctions. ”
In Punjab v. Qaiser Iqbal (PLD 2018 Lahore 198), the importance and scope of Article 19A was clearly defined by the Lahore High Court.
In paragraph 61, the Hon’ble Lahore High Court observed: “Access to information and access to information in all matters of public importance is a fundamental right unconstitutionally guaranteed under Articles 19 and 19A of the Constitution. The right to information is required. This means that members of a democratic society must be fully aware that they can intelligently influence a decision that may affect them.
The statement said that Parliament, the Senate, their secretariats, committees and members should be excluded from the scope of the 2017 Act, a deliberate attempt is being made to remove the constitutional guarantee contained in Article 19A. Is.
In the above case, the Lahore High Court has clearly stated: “The people of Pakistan have a right to know every public work, every work done at the public level, through its public workers and elected representatives.”
If this serious amendment bill is not defeated, it will deprive citizens of their right to access information.
“We [at the WAF] The statement said the Senate Standing Committee on Information, before the bill is due to be introduced on February 15, 2021, should reject the tool.
“Parliament cannot be excluded from the scope of the 2017 Act because Parliament and parliamentary debates, procedures and business information or related Pakistani citizens cannot make informed and responsible decisions about their collective future.”
“Indeed, the implementation of this tool will ensure further deterioration in the quality of political discourse, which will ultimately have a negative impact on the political participation of citizens in matters of public importance. Its destruction on Pakistan’s already fragile democracy.” What effects can’t be emphasized. “
Since the key functions of Parliament include legislation, setting the national budget, discussing issues of public importance and concern, and monitoring and oversight, it is illogical and unconstitutional to exclude it from the scope of the 2017 Act.
It is unfortunate that instead of respecting fundamental rights and upholding the constitution, this government chooses the supremacy of parliament by legislating through ordinances.
Its members routinely introduce bills to further reduce the rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
“This amendment bill is another attempt to limit transparency and accountability in the conduct of state affairs. Parliament is accountable to the citizens of Pakistan. Therefore, we need more transparency than its actions and decisions at all levels.” The statement added.
No public representative or public body should be above scrutiny and accountability. As is evident from this initiative and similar previous efforts, accountability is something that makes the government feel that others should be brought under its purview, but also excludes its own members. Will be
The statement concluded that the WAF has strongly condemned such electoral and authoritarian maneuvers and called for the immediate withdrawal of the bill.
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