Senate panel pushes PM on fast-tracking legislation process for RTI law


The Senate Standing Committee on Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage on Monday sent a reminder to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to immediately include the Right to Information Bill (RTI) on the agenda of any forthcoming cabinet meeting so that its legislation process can proceed.

The committee during its meeting on Monday lamented how the government has been reluctant to complete the legislation for the draft bill.

“It is ironic that the committee after credible effort has prepared the RTI draft but the government is still reluctant to legislate it from the House,” said Kamil Ali Agha, the chairman of the Senate committee.

In the letter, Agha urged the premier to immediately include the RTI bill on the agenda of any upcoming cabinet meeting for its approval, adding that after its approval the bill could then be passed from either the lower or upper house of parliament.

He lamented that that the committee had passed the bill on July 15, and had sent it to the PM for approval. It had also been approved by the Senate but due to unknown reasons, the government was reluctant to discuss it in its cabinet meetings.

According to the rules of business, after the House’s consent the government is bound to legislate on the bill within 60 days. However, in this case, the government has violated the rules, he added.

Agha said the committee could have easily moved the information bill on the private members day but it wants unanimous approval of the House.

Secretary Ministry of Information Muhammad Azam told the committee that the premier had appreciated the bill and the efforts of the committee, adding that a summary of the bill has been forwarded to the Cabinet for endorsement.

The committee, however, expressed its reservations.

Later, Information Minister Pervez Rashid said that the Right to Information Bill needs consent from the defence and interior ministries before a final endorsement from the Cabinet.

Media code of conduct

Seeking updates from the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) on implementation of the code of conduct for private television channels, Agha informed the committee that PEMRA in the last meeting said it had prepared a code of conduct with consultation of all stakeholders, promising to implement it within 15 days.

The secretary information said that the PM had constituted a committee in this regard, which had prepared a draft but the Pakistan Broadcasting Association instead of making a commitment, asked if they could implement their own code of conduct.

Agha offered the committee’s help to the government in getting the draft passed from the parliament.

The standing committee also approved the draft of code of conduct from private television channels, directing that it should be provided to the media.