Deviating from actual issues surrounding public welfare while cherry picking non-issues, without heeding the harm it causes to national interest especially during time country is undergoing security challenges, fighting a war within, laying lives – Yes, that does sound like Pakistan’s relentlessly free-of-principle media. It is not a matter of much talked about freedom of expression but matter of wisdom and common principle stance regarding areas of national significance, which Pakistan’s morally-bankrupting media needs to learn. Despite all due respect to media personnel killed in the line of their duties, it doesn’t make members of the club exempted from recognizing missing pieces of the argument presented in favour of media. PILDAT Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency organized Right to Information conference for the awareness of academia and civil society stressing upon utilizing this fundamental right as tool for governmental accountability. Whereas, much was not discussed about including media under the radar, to be held accountable utilizing RTI. To top it all, towing his shallow line of argument, detracking the participants from substantial discussion to rather a non-issue targeting Pakistan military as one of the anti-state agenda long carried out by his father company, Mr. Azaz Syed took over as speaker adding his views to discussion on RTI as official correspondent from Geo television network present in PILDAT conference.
As a matter of fact, media yet again displays its obsession with Armed forces of Pakistan, Geo television network in particular, so much so that their military-phobia spills out the rim of glass when the subject of discussion is not even a kilometre close to military or security. Therefore, it shall be made part of constitution, viewing changes in the system an amendment regarding media accountability shall be brought about, formulation of an independent media accountability cell is need of the time.
However, highlighting the event were Indian delegation invited to share their own struggle and journey in order to achieve RTI for people in India who were uncontested source of inspiration during the two day conference. It was duly reflected that Anjali Bharadwaj, co-convenor National Campaign for People’s Right to Information, New Delhi and Amrita Johar, Director Information and Research, Satark Nagarik Sangathan (SNS), New Delhi were highly motivated and active workers in their respective cause of ensuring RTI and spreading awareness regarding the implementation of RTI largely for governance and accountability purpose, focused and matter-of-fact presentations from cross-border participants were markedly based upon public welfare. It was noteworthy, the process of achieving the Right of Information in India has undergone rigorous governmental accountability, especially questioned by the grass root voter after acquisition of RTI making the entire experience a precedence to follow for many other democratic countries. The model presented for the process of ensuring RTI carried stark resemblance with bottom-up policy approach, where advocacy groups are formulated to hold local administrative representatives responsible for mending infrastructural loopholes in each district by releasing a performance-based report card evaluating each representative before the election.
Meanwhile, Mr. Azaz Syed had expressed his reservation over COAS General Raheel Sharif having being given excessive limelight alongside the Prime Minister of Pakistan on official visits abroad. According to him COAS, or to say the armed forces as an institution is constitutionally subordinate to the elected government, where he particularly pointed out the place of Minister of Defence is higher than that of COAS. “”While points raised by Mr. Azaz Syed were misguided and blatantly irrelevant to the subject of RTI being discussed mainly because, he did not have an answer to from what perspective does his question on seniority of COAS serves interest of the general public. Moreover, while raising a question over accountability of Indian military under Indian movement of RTI, Ms. Anjali Bharadwaj explicitly reinstated that military in India is not held accountable under RTI, nevertheless military’s personal and indigenous accountability mechanism exist within its own jurisdiction. She also agreed to a commonly believed notion that Indian media is run on predetermined set national agenda. Therefore, it brings further shame to Pakistan’s pseudo-liberal media and its touts endlessly working opposite the country’s interest in times of decisive internal and external struggles.
Pakistani information commissioners representing Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were part of the panel to inform participants over the state of Right to Information in their respective regions. While Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has lead the case with technologically advancing in the field developing E-governance as their focus, to which questions were raised as to how the large majority incapable of accessing the internet would benefit turned out as an established constraint unlike the Indian counterparts, who are highly grass root in their approach.
Interestingly, Pakistan have had quite a number of legislations,policy formulations, parliamentary acts passed addressing several issues, including that of Terrorism and Right to Information especially after the resumption of democracy over the last one decade. However, implementation and mass awareness accessible for the general public regarding these basic rights has not been worked out, which shall be considered as lack of political will and failure of democratic ideals long awaited to be resumed. Cosmetic contouring surrounding policy and governance in Pakistan is genuinely the only commendable part when it comes to public welfare, which can also easily be termed as instrument used to veil corrupt political saboteurs exploiting public resources under the garb of democracy.
‘’’’ Beside influential verbal discussions and presentations, there was a conspicuous difference of attitude between both Indian and Pakistani participants. Where Indian delegates were witnessed keeping public interest as touchstone for successful governance and democracy, Pakistani participants presented varying opinion motivated to prove personal achievements side lining mass public welfare. This clearly shows that Pakistan’s democracy is a failure not because military coups have been taking place toppling civil governments frequently, it in fact proves that Pakistan’s civil administration lacks the behaviour and political will which is required for a successful democratic system.