Pakistani Province Issues RTI Ordinance; Changes Urged

27 August 2013

The Pakistani province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa on Aug. 13 promulgated a Right to Information Ordinance.

The ordinance (official site) (Word version) is better an earlier version, according to advocates, but they said it still needs improvements.

The ordinance, which has a 90-daye life-span, must be presented before the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Assembly for review.

Critics believe that the definition of information needs to be made more explicit. More semi-autonomous and autonomous bodies, the Peshawar High Court and nongovernmental organizations should be covered, too. “We also think that composition of KP Information Commission needs to be looked into more carefully,” the Center for  Peace and Development Initiatives said, also urging high penalties for not providing information.

“We have started using this law already and developed step-by-step instructions guide for submitting information requests under this law and are in the process of disseminating this guide through awareness campaign,” CPDI wrote.

Abdur Rauf wrote in The Express Tribune: “Although described as a “courageous step” taken by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led provincial government, the Right to Information (RTI) Ordinance 2013 lacks lustre. Experts point out amendments which they deem essential before the assembly turns it into an act.”

The ordinance would establish an independent information commission, although critics have urged a different appointment system.

The law provides protection to “whistleblowers”, stating that no one may be subject to any legal, administrative or employment-related sanction, regardless of any breach of a legal obligation, for releasing information on wrongdoings, or which would disclose a serious threat to health, safety or the environment, as long as they acted in good faith.

The ordinance won praise as “potent” from Umar Cheema in a descriptive article in The News.

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