Pakistanis can now track government activities after new bill is passed

Crucially, the new bill mandates government agencies to provide information about missing people within three days of a request filed. In photo: Protests in Lahore as four bloggers went missing in Pakistan in recent days. Photograph:( AFP )

PTI Islamabad, Islamabad Capital Territory, Pakistan Feb 14, 2017, 02.22 PM (IST)

Pakistan gave its nod to a bill that will empower citizens to access government information.

A Pakistani parliamentary body Tuesday unanimously passed the Right to Information (RTI) Bill. 

Under the new legislation, citizens can get information about government activities and more importantly, government agencies will have to provide all information about a missing person within three days of a request being filed.

A three-member commission with the power to order public bodies to disclose information and provide records will be formed to hear RTI requests. The commission will entertain requests for records from the past 20 years, as records older than 20 years will automatically pass in the public domain.

Senator Farhatullah Babar, who chaired the committee, said that in case a person is abducted and killed by security agencies, the agencies will no longer be able to use ‘national security’ as an excuse not to provide information on the matter. He said that no information that pertains to matters of fundamental human rights will be allowed to be withheld.

The Bill will now be presented to Parliament for further deliberations and passing into an Act.

(WION with inputs from PTI)