ISLAMABAD: Chairman National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Monday said the Freedom of Information Act, 2002 is not only limited in scope, but due to lack of advocacy campaigns, its implementation mechanism is very weak.

Chairman NAB Qamar Zaman Chaudhry said this while speaking at a seminar on “Right to Information and Whistle Blower Protection” jointly organized by NAB and Transparency International Pakistan. Right to Information is considered as a fundamental right of citizens at international level, he added.

He said that Pakistan promulgated the Freedom of Information Ordinance, 2002 at federal level, which allows any citizen access to public record held by public body of the federal government including Ministries, Departments, Boards, Councils, Courts and Tribunals. “The law itself is restricted and limited in scope. In addition, due to lack of advocacy campaigns, the implementation mechanism is very weak”, he further maintained.

Chaudhry said that whistle blowing is reporting of wrongdoings, which directly dent the public interests. Whistleblower protection is essential to encourage the reporting of misconduct, fraud and corruption. The risk of corruption significantly heightens in environments where the reporting of wrongdoing is not supported or protected, he said.

The NAB chairman said that the NAB keeping in view the importance of whistle blowers protection and right to information has drafted the “whistle blower protection Act” and forwarded it for vetting to Ministry of Law, Justice and Human Rights. The Ministry of Law after vetting has finalized the draft bill and it was also approved by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Now, the whistle blower draft bill will be presented to the federal cabinet for approval and afterwards sent to the National Assembly, he said.

He said t0hat NAB is making utmost efforts to eradicate corruption, but the bureau alone cannot fight this menace therefore we all need to stand together to eliminate the menace from the society.

To a question, he said that NAB since its inception recovered Rs 265 billion.

Zahid Abdullah Program Manager of Center for Peace and Development Initiative (CPDI) speaking on the occasion said that the right to information act, implemented by government of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa (KP) and Punjab are according to the international standards. But the provincial governments of Sindh and Balochistan have adopted Freedom of Information Act, 2002 which is a very weak law as it could not meet its objective, he said.

He said that Freedom of Information Act, 2002 dose not provide speed access to information like the law introduced by the KP government. He said that the present government need not drag its feet on the issue of Right to Information and must fulfil its commitment as per charter of democracy.

Adil Gillani Advisor Transparency International Pakistan said that this would be the last democratic government, if it fails in taking concrete measures for eradication of corruption. While taking about the Whistle blower Protection, he said that only KP had a mention about Whistle blower protection but the federal authorities have yet to promulgate the law. He said that the law should be promulgated to curb corruption.

Gillani said that Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan’s (SECP) never unearthed corruption of business community, but effectively doing the job of hiding their corruption.