While the Pakistani NGOs seek the Right to Information Law, the likes of “Wikileaks” are wikileaking clandestine governments!
The latest ‘leaks’ of Wikileaks provide a historical opportunity to re-consider many a taken for granted truths!
This writing too intends to discuss afresh some such propositions which relates to the affairs of the governments. For instance, whether governments are justified in keeping various types of information secret. In Pakistan and maybe in other such countries also, this is an accepted truth. People outside governments than those inside seem more convinced in this regard. That is to be more loyalist than the king. As is the case, in contrast to the ordinary people, the elitist both inside and outside governments are to be blamed for this myth. They present government as a transcendental entity, and attribute it with similar characteristics. Without going into a lengthy debate, the simple truth is that rulers and government officials, be they elected, or nominated or appointed, all of them are from the same society of human beings, and the same countries where they come to be rulers or officials. They are not endowed with these powers to rule others from any other-world. These powers are given to them by the citizens as a trust.
Obviously, these powers are not absolute. They are determined and limited. Means that that’s no monarchy, rather a constitutional government which runs under certain rules and laws. It is for this reason that while someone is invested with powers, at the same time he is made responsible and accountable. To determine the scope of these powers, and their limits also, is the intent of laws and constitutions. For oversight, various institutions are created. That is what makes the existence of executive, legislature, and judiciary indispensable. Judiciary keeps a check on executive whether it is acting in accordance with the provisions of the constitution and laws of the land, and on legislature also whether the new laws enacted contradict or contravene with the dictates of the constitution. In Pakistan, its citizens have recently achieved a judiciary, which is not lame-duck, but alive and vigorous.
Thus, as viewed above, if the powers acquired by the rulers and officials are like a trust, then there is no justification to keep information about the affairs of the government secret. Why a government’s own matters or a government’s matters with another government should be secret is without any grounds! No argument validates this claim. However, it has been so, and remains so.
More to this, considering every government runs (and swells) at the expense of its citizens’ wealth, i.e. by levying taxes, it is quite natural for it to account for each single penny. Same is the purpose of audit and social audit. This means that all the affairs should proceed in complete transparency. There is no excuse for any secret or discretionary funds. All the incomes and expenditures of governments, including defense, should be transparent and open. This has become damn easier today. All the accounts should be put on internet for the perusal of the citizens. To this, only one exception can be considered. That’s the security and defense of a country, especially during war. To this end, certain information can be kept confidential. However, in this area extreme caution is needed. The type of information which today’s governments intend to conceal from their ‘enemies’ the very enemies somehow gain access to that, of course, due to the advancement of technology. Also, Wikileaks prove no information can be made and kept secret.
Hence, if all the affairs of governments are open and transparent, most of the possibility of this or that type of armed revolts, and war will be reduced to the minimum. This proposition would never be welcomed by rulers and governments, and also by those who despite their being outside government are stuffed with a thinking of ruling other people. They are ‘rulers’ from inside, or by instinct. They can never concede to or tolerate that the matters of governments be brought in open before the ‘ordinary’ citizens.
It is thanks to such elitist people that governments have enacted laws and rules like official secret acts, or classified information, and turned themselves into some transcendental entities. More than that, they step ahead of this when they not only conceal their affairs from their citizens but make leaking them a crime which invites various types of punishments. So, on the one hand in addition to concealing their affairs from their citizens, governments lie as well as mislead their citizens, and on the other, they contrive incomplete, incorrect and false information which they mean for “public consumption.” Interestingly, this has engaged civil society in securing citizens’ right to information. This makes for a mission for many an NGO.
In view of above, it may be concluded that the information which Wikileaks has leaked is in fact the property not only of the US citizens but world citizens. Wikileaks has only returned that information to its rightful owners. We should be thankful to Wikeleaks, and wish there spring hundreds of such initiatives which will bring official secrets and classified information back to where it rightfully belong to. And by doing this, they will make the citizens powerful instead of their governments. In leaking and revealing the secrets of governments lies the secret of citizens’ freedom and prosperity!
Note: This article was completed in December 2010.