Two Pakistani Provinces Resisting New RTI Laws

1 October 2014

The bureaucracies in the Pakistani provinces of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) are offering “stiff resistance” to the new right to information laws, according to the Centre for Peace and Development Initiative (CPDI).

Information was withheld in over 87 per cent of the requests, the group said.

CPDI sent in 924 information requests to the governments of Punjab and KP under their respective RTI laws but only 115 responses were received (12.4 per cent).

Both states passed laws in 2013, but CPDI concluded that “secrecy is still hampering free flow of information in these two provinces.”

Poor Response Rate Seen

The requests were submitted from Jan. 1 to Sept. 16, CPDI reported, and were followed up on with respective appellate bodies when access to requested information was delayed or unlawfully denied.

“The fact that information was provided in case of only 115 information requests out of total 924 shows the low priority of KP and Punjab public bodies in terms of responding to information request” the study says.

“The study shows that the requested information was provided only in 76 cases out of total 328 information requests filed to KP public bodies without the intervention of KP Information Commission,” according to CPDI.

“In Punjab the information was provided in 39 cases out of total 596 information requests without the intervention of Punjab Information Commission,” the group reported.

“These facts show how much work needs to be done in terms of raising awareness level of public officials in both the provinces about citizens’ right to information,” says the study.

Appellate Bodies Criticized

A total of 215 complaints were lodged with KP information commission against various government bodies for withholding information but despite commission’s letters to 43 public bodies only one responded with the required information.

In Punjab 376 complaints were lodged against public bodies for failing to provide information under RTI law and the provincial commission directed 225 such bodies to provide the information but only 53 complied with the directions.

CPDI recommended that the Punjab and KP commissions ensure the implementation of sections pertaining to the proactive disclosure of information.

It also urged the KP Commission to suggest to the provincial government that the KP Right to Information Act 2013 be brought within the purview of the Peshawar High Court.

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