RTI Case Studies From Pakistan

7 January 2015

 A report by the Asia Foundation on right to know laws in three Southeast Asian countries. (See FreedomInfo.org report.) The report includes an annex with case studies about the use of the laws. Reprinted below is the section on Pakistan

Prime Minister’s Overseas Trips

Under the Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002, RTI activist Saleem Iqbal filed a request with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs seeking information on the total number of foreign trips made by the prime minister from April 2008 to March 2012, and the total cost of the prime minister’s air travel, accommodations, and miscellaneous expenses. After the request was initially denied, the Ministry eventually complied, under orders from the ombudsman, revealing that the prime minister’s travels during the period had cost a total of PKR 49,102,313.

Renovation of Commissioner’s Residence in Sahiwal

Haji Abdul Rehman, age 61, is a permanent resident of Sahiwal. He filed an application with the local building department seeking details of the lavish expenditures on construction and maintenance of the commissioner’s house at a time when the area was flooded. After pursuing his RTI request methodically but unsuccessfully for six months, Rehman appealed to the provincial ombudsman on the recommendation of local NGO’s.

The ombudsman called each party and initiated a complaint proceeding, ordering the building department to provide the requested information. Since then, however, the building department has appealed the provincial ombudsman’s order to the governor of Punjab. This is the first time that a public agency in Pakistan has contested an order by the provincial ombudsman, and the matter is still pending at the time of this writing.

Anti-Narcotics Force Budget and Performance Information

The Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) submitted an information request under the Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002 to the secretary of the Ministry of Narcotics Control.

CPDI was seeking information about the total quantity of narcotics recovered from July 2008 to June 2009, and the total current and development budget of the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) during the same period.

Shortly after the request was submitted, CPDI was visited by an ANF official saying he was there to check their credentials. CPDI heard nothing more after this visit, despite a number of letters to other relevant departments. Finally, CPDI filed a complaint with the federal ombudsman that produced results: documents detailing the various quantities of opium, heroine, hashish, and morphine recovered in 2008–09, and showing a total ANF budget for that period of PKR 622.78 million, and a total development budget of PKR 93.625 million.

Attendance Record of the Sindh Assembly

Zahid Abdullah filed an information request with the secretary of the Sindh Provincial Assembly under the Sindh Freedom of Information Act 2006, seeking the attendance records of each member of the Assembly for the 2010–11 parliamentary year. After the request was denied, a complaint was filed with the ombudsman that resulted in the release of the requested information.

Project Information about the Biometric Identification Electronic System Phase I

Qambar Abbas filed an information request with the Sindh Information Technology Department under the Sindh Freedom of Information Act 2006, to discover how funds were allocated and spent for the Biometric Identification Electronic System Phase I project in Fiscal Year 2010–11. When the requested information was not forthcoming, he lodged a complaint with the provincial ombudsman. On the ombudsman’s orders, the Department reported that the budget for the project in fiscal year 2010–11 was PKR 88.97 million, of which PKR 71.28 million was spent. The Department also provided a copy of the project contract.

Education and Budget Allocation

Malik Saleem Iqbal filed an information request with the district of Mianwali under Article 137 of the Local Government Ordinance 2001, seeking the Fiscal Year 2009–10 budget for education projects in the district, the revised budget, and actual spending on all education projects. After first denying the request, the district eventually complied under an order from the ombudsman, revealing that a total of PKR 171.362 million was allocated for education projects in Mianwali in Fiscal Year 2009–10, and detailing spending on each individual project.

Crime Statistics from the Mardan District Police Office

Imran Khan filed an RTI request for crime statistics from the Mardan District Police Office. The Office refused to provide the information, and referred the request to the deputy inspector general (DIG). The DIG office also refused to provide the information. After several follow-ups and meetings, DIG forwarded the information to the provincial police officer of Peshawar for approval, but there was no response. Finally, Khan approached the provincial ombudsman, who promptly responded to the complaint stating that as there was no provincial RTI law, the complaint was outside the ombudsman jurisdiction.

Total Budget for the Construction of a Bridge at Pirsabaq, Nowshera

Under Article 137 of the Local Government Ordinance 2001, Qamber Abbas filed an information request with the Nowshera Works and Services Department asking for information on the total budget for the construction of a bridge at Pirsabaq, Nowshera, and a certified copy of the project.

Following an order from the ombudsman, the office of the executive engineer of the Nowshera Communication and Works Department provided the requested information, showing that spending on the Pirsabaq Bridge in Fiscal Year 2010–11 was PKR 10.051 million, and the total spent as of the date of the report was PKR 90.8491 million.

Information about a Bridge Construction Project at Koral Chowk, Rawalpindi

Under the Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002, Qamber Abbas requested information from the Capital Development Authority (CDA) concerning funds allocated for bridge construction at Koral Chowk. When the CDA denied his request, he appealed to the federal ombudsman. The information that was subsequently provided showed that there was no project under way at that location, and that no funds were allocated for such a project in Fiscal Year 2010–11.

Information about a Bridge over the Jhelum River at Azad Pattan

Under the FOI Ordinance 2002, Qamber Abbas requested information from the National Highway Authority (NHA) regarding the construction of a bridge over the Jhelum River at Azad Pattan. When ordered by the federal ombudsman, the NHA stated that no NHA funds had been allocated for the construction of the bridge, but that expenses totaling PKR 150,867 was incurred on the bridge and was met through PSDP allocation for Fiscal Year 2010–11.

 

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