Two Pakistani Provinces Pass RTI Legislation: Punjab, K-P

13 December 2013

Two Pakistani provinces have approved right to information laws – Punjab and Kyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

The most recent action came Dec. 13 when Punjab legislators passed the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information (RTI) Bill 2013.

Opposition members who said the bill is “unclear” and “negates the freedom of speech” as enshrined in the constitution, according to an Express Tribune report. The paper said final bill had been “tweaked and re-introduced with amendments by opposition and treasury bench members.” The account said nine amendments made by the opposition were rejected and 10 amendments were passed.

The paper reported: “Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) legislator Ayesha Javed, a member of the Assembly’s special committee which considered the bill, said that the definition of various terms, like ‘national interest’ and ‘third party ‘are not clear. She also claimed that the bill is silent on providing protection to whistleblowers.”

Among other things, the Punjab bill sets a 14 day time limit for responding to request. A three-person Punjab Information Commission will be formed.

Punjab Minister for Environment Protection and Chairman of the Police Reforms Committee Shuja Khanzada recently said that transparency is the hallmark of the Punjab government and all projects are being completed according to this policy.

The  Punjab government has launched a five-year project to improve access to information about specific services, according to a Business Recorder report.

K-P Begins Implementing Law

The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) governor on Dec. 6 signed the Right to Information (RTI) Act 2013, making K-P the first province to have an RTI law, according to the Express Tribune.

Sahibzada Muhammad Khalid was appointed to a three-year term as the Chief Information Commissioner by the government. He recently resigned from the K-P Public Service Commission.

A search committee was named to decide on two other commissioners.

The RTI bill was unanimously passed by the K-P Assembly on Oct. and was sent to the office of Governor Shaukatullah Khan to sign. Speaking to The Express Tribune, Spokesperson for Chief Minister Shiraz Paracha confirmed the governor had signed the act and therefore, appointments had been made.

One commentator, M Shafiq Anjum, wrote that the K-P law “is comparatively well composed” by international standards. The author, who works for the Consumer Rights Commission, continued:

The next step for the KP government is to complete Information Commission within given timeframe and to launch awareness campaign for citizens to generate requisite demand for accessing public information. In addition, there is a need to work out the ways to discourage the ‘culture of secrecy’ and promote the ‘culture of openness’ in order to get real fruits of RTI laws. KP government along with CSOs should seriously focus on capacity building and education of the ordinary people, political activists/ workers, media persons and academia about how to use the right to information for public benefits.

 

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