Senate Committee on Information and Broadcasting had on Wednesday approved the draft of a "Freedom of Information Law". (Agencies)
The committee finalized the draft after eight months of deliberations. It ignored reservations of the defence authorities.
The draft was prepared by the ministry on the recommendations of a sub-committee headed by Farhatullah Babar, the President's spokesman said.
It was decided that the committee chairman, Kamil Ali Agha, would move it in the Senate as a multi-party bill. In reply to a question about addressing the Defence Ministry's (MoD) reservations, Babar said the Senate could not wait for long for the ministry's reply.
The MoD had asked the Senate's sub-committee on information to keep the bill pending till further orders of the defence authorities. Later, it asked the committee to incorporate a condition in the draft making it mandatory on anyone seeking official information to get a No Objection Certificate (NOC).
The committee, however, rejected the Defence Ministry's point of view and approved the draft of the freedom of information law. Babar said the committee waited quite long for a letter from the ministry and then decided to approve the draft.
Agha said the bill would give media and the common man access to all types of information - be it secret, classified, confidential or simple. "Each and every government department comes under the ambit of the bill and they will have to provide all kinds of information to people," Agha was quoted as saying.
He said decisions of the government would be placed on websites. "Even appointments of officials and their perks and privileges will be placed on the website," he said. Under the law, government officials will provide information within 20 days or else a complaint may be lodged against him/her which will be decided by the head of the relevant department in next 20 days.
On action against officials for non-compliance, Agha said the bill has proposed punishment to officials for not providing the required information. Pervaiz Rasheed, the Minister for Information and Broadcasting, said the government believed in consensus and took decision after taking on board all stakeholders and cited the example of a similar bill adopted by the Punjab cabinet before the dissolution of assemblies. The exact modalities for seeking information were not known.
Senate Committee on Information and Broadcasting had on Wednesday approved the draft of a "Freedom of Information Law".