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  • 3 November 2016

    Pakistan: A Tale of Two Bills

    By Zahid Abdullah The writer is program manager for the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives. This article is from the CPDI blog and was published Oct. 31 in Dawn,. Although citizens are constitutionally guaranteed access to information held by the government in matters of public importance, it seems that the centre, in cahoots with […]

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  • 26 September 2016

    Pakistani Minister Pledges to Bring ATI Bill to Cabinet

    Pakistan’s Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid has promised yet again that an access to Information bill will be presented to cabinet for approval very soon. His pledge came to reporters after a ceremony in Islamabad on Sept. 26, as reported by APP. Similar pledges of Cabinet consideration were made in July and August. He said the […]

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News Archive

  • 23 March 2016

    Speakers at SE Asian Meeting Urge Publicizing RTI

    Representatives from five South Asia countries held a regional conference on right to information on March 16-17, stressing the need to encourage greater use of RTI laws, according to an article in The Daily Times and another in The Tribune. Delegates from Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal met at a conference sponsored by […]

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  • 3 February 2016

    Court Backs Ombudsman, Limits Pakistan’s President

    A court in Pakistan has ruled that the president may not overrule the federal ombudsman in right to information cases, Umar Cheema reports in The News and Sohail Sarfraz writes in the Business Recorder. The Lahore High Court set aside a presidential decision in favor of the Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR). “The verdict had […]

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  • 17 January 2016

    Pakistani Minister Says New Group to Review RTI Bill

    The government of Pakistan has constituted a special five-person committee to evaluate the long-pending right to information bill, according to an article in Daily Pakistan. The News reported that the group wlll “finalize draft law in a meeting on January 21 and it will then be laid before the house as a government bill.” The […]

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  • 7 January 2016

    Study Rates Pakistani RTI Laws, Performance

    Khyber Pakhtunkhwa ranked as the Pakistani province with the best overall right to information act and response performance, with a score of 73% in a study conducted by PILDAT, the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency. Punjab was second with a score of 65% and Balochistan third with a score of 29%. The 2002 […]

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  • 1 December 2015

    Right to Information, Wrongs of Implementation

    By Zahid Abdullah The author is associated with Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives and coordinator of Coalition on Right to Information. Follow him on Twitter at @XahidAbdullah This article was published Nov. 28 in The Tribune and is reprinted with permission. Other than the insertion of Article 19-A in the Constitution through the 18th Amendment, major political […]

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  • 27 August 2015

    Pakistan Breaches Promise to Bring RTI Bill to Cabinet

    Pakistan’s government has not lived up to official promises that a right to information reform bill would be considered at the next Cabinet meeting, reports Umar Cheema in The News. The Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Pervaiz Rashid told The News Aug. 22 that the draft bill would be presented in the “next’” cabinet […]

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  • 23 July 2015

    Pakistan Draft Law Rated Potential Number One

    Pakistan’s draft Right to Information Act has scored an “astonishing 146 points” on the RTI Rating. The score puts the bill 11 points ahead of the best-ranked RTI law in the world, Serbia’s, which got 135 points. The assessment of the Pakistan bill was issued by the Centre for Law and Democracy. The CLD assessment […]

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  • 8 July 2015

    Pakistan PM Promises to Bring RTI Bill to Cabinet

    Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has asked that the draft of Right to Information Bill be placed on the agenda of the next meeting of the Federal Cabinet for its approval, according to an article on and another in PakistanToday. Sharif on July 3 asked the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to introduce RTI bill […]

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  • 25 June 2015

    Pakistan Province Exempts Assembly From RTI Act

    The legislature in the Pakistan’s province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly has exempted itself from the purview of K-P RTI Act of 2013, according to media reports. The K-P Assembly also reduced the size of the Information Commission to two from three. Another amendment provides a right to appeal commission decisions to district court. As described by journalist […]

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  • 7 May 2015

    PPP Calls for Adoption of Right to Information Bill

    The Pakistan People’s Party has called for adoption of the Right to Information (RTI) Bill, an appeal welcomed by a key advocacy group, though it noted that the PPP didn’t push through an RTI bill when it was in power. In recent times, an RTI bill was adopted by a Senate standing committee but it […]

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  • 11 March 2015

    Government is Open in Rhetoric and Secret in Reality

    By Umar Cheema The author is an investigative reporter for the Pakistani newspaper The News, where this article first appeared March 10. ISLAMABAD: The PML-N government is determined to promote transparency in rhetoric but has been found building walls of secrecy in reality. The Ministry of Law, Justice and Human Rights has denied the citizens’ […]

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  • 17 February 2015

    Pakistan Committee Unhappy With Progress on RTI Bill

    A Pakistan Senate Committee Feb. 16 has expressed its displeasure with the lack of progress on Right to Information bill. “Delay in presenting such an important bill before the Cabinet for approval, is a grave constitutional violation which proves that it is not on priority list of the government despite the fact that the bill […]

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  • 12 November 2014

    Asia Foundation Report Finds Many Implementation Issues

    Awareness of right to know laws in three Southeast Asian countries is very low and public officials report many obstacles to implementing the RTI laws, according to a new report by the Asia Foundation. The study was done in partnership with civil society organizations in Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan, and with the foundation’s country office […]

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  • 1 October 2014

    Two Pakistani Provinces Resisting New RTI Laws

    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 […]

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  • 14 August 2014

    Compromise Bill Developed in Pakistan, Wins Praise

    A compromise right to information bill for Pakistan has emerged from discussions among the political parties and is being praised by RTI campaigners. The draft “Right to Information Act, 2014,” was described Aug. 8 by Waseem Abbasi in an article in The News. Abbasi quoted sources as saying the bill has the support of the […]

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  • 18 July 2014

    Pakistan Committee Makes Changes in Draft RTI Bill 

    A committee of the Pakistan Senate on July 15 approved amendments to a right to information bill, according to an article in The Daily Times and one by the Pakistan Press Foundation.  The Standing Committee on Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage, chaired by Senator Kamil Ali Agha, dropped a provision that would have left authority […]

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  • 19 May 2014

    Pakistan Committee Backs RTI Information Commission

    The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting has recommended creation of an independent federal information commission and legal protection for whistleblowers. A committee recently finalized its recommendations on the draft Right to Information bill which has been proposed by the ministry, according to Dawn and the Daily Times. The committee also proposed amendments […]

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  • 7 March 2014

    Two Pakistani States Implementing New Laws

    Two Pakistani states have taken somewhat delayed steps to implement recently passed right to information laws. The Punjab government has established the Punjab Information Commission and appointed the commissioners. One of them is Mukhtar Ahmed Ali. He is the founding director of a group that advocated for the new law, the Centre for Peace and […]

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  • 24 January 2014

    2013 – A Watershed Year for RTI Movement in Pakistan

    By Zahid Abdullah Zahid Abdullah works for Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) and is also Coordinator of Coalition on Right to Information, (CRTI). 2013 will always be regarded as a watershed year for right to information movement in Pakistan. Although Pakistan was the first country in the South Asia to have introduced a […]

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  • 13 December 2013

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

    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 […]

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  • 4 October 2013

    Punjab Issues Ordinance on Right to Information

    The state of Punjab in Pakistan has decreed a right to information law. The “Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Ordinance 2013” (text) has been introduced as an ordinance, making it valid for 120 days. After that it lapses unless approved by the provincial assembly. “Great development here and we are very excited!!,” commented Zahid […]

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  • 30 August 2013

    Pakistani Committee OKs Freedom of Information Bill

    A Senate committee in Pakistan has approved a freedom of information bill. The Senate Committee on Information and Broadcasting approved the bill on Aug. 28 after eight months of deliberations. Committee chairman Kamil Ali Agha is expected to propose it in the Senate as a multi-party bill. The committee rejected a request from the defense […]

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  • 27 August 2013

    Pakistani Province Issues RTI Ordinance; Changes Urged

    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 […]

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  • 13 August 2013

    Punjab Seeks Comment on New Version of RTI Bill

    The Government of Punjab, a state in Pakistan, has requested public comment on “The Punjab Freedom of Information Act 2013.” The draft was issued Aug. 7 and  is available here and here. It has been approved in principle by the Cabinet.  Public comments were requested within 15 days to In the state of Khyber […]

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  • 29 July 2013

    Pakistan Activists Object to Draft RTI Ordinance in KP

    Civil society groups are objecting that the proposed right to information ordinance in Pakistan’s province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was watered down. The Coalition on Right of Information (CRTI) and allies held a press conference July 24 recently to oppose the bill which was changed in early July by the Cabinet. CRTI coordinator Zahid Abddullah said […]

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  • 19 July 2013

    Steps Toward RTI in Pakistan Provinces Considered Inadequate

    (The following article was prepared by the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) and summarizes a longer report.) Rhetoric aside, the PML-N (the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz) and PTI (the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) are awkwardly alike in denying the public the right to information as their provincial governments in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) have […]

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  • 10 July 2013

    Action Seen on RTI Seen on Several Fronts in Pakistan

    The Cabinet of the Pakistan province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on July 9 approved a right to information bill, according to a report in The Nation. In the meantime, a committee in Punjab province is considering an RTI bill that observers had thought was nearly final. At the national level, a Senate subcommittee held a session […]

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  • 21 June 2013

    Critics Score Emerging Pakistani FOI Legislation

    A developing Pakistani freedom of information law is getting poor initial reviews. A Senate subcommittee recently produced a long-awaiting national bill (text). (See previous report.) Zahid Abdullah, Coordinator Coalition on Right to Information (CRTI), sharply criticized the bill in a statement.  “There is a long negative list … and a small positive list of […]

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  • 14 June 2013

    Pakistan Subcommittee OKs Draft RTI Legislation

    A subcommittee of Pakistan’s Senate Committee on Information and Broadcasting June 13 approved a draft Right to Information (RTI) Act 2013, The three-person committee rejected a last-minute request to delay from the Ministry of Defense, with one senator saying the ministry had been “contemptuous.”  The Information Ministry has agreed to update the proposal in light […]

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  • 5 April 2013

    Pakistan Senate Panel Tells Ministry to Present FOI Law

    The Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting in Pakistan on April 5 gave the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting 15 days to table a draft of Freedom of Information law before the committee. The directive was issued during the committee meeting chaired by Kamil Ali Agha at the Parliament House, according to an Associated […]

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  • 20 March 2013

    Punjab Cabinet Advances Criticized RTI Legisaltion

    The Punjab cabinet on March 11 approved the Freedom of Information Act 2012. The bill expected to go to parliament for further action, after a coming election, is an improvement over a previous version. It would rate a 105 on the scale for evaluating legal frameworks by Access Info Europe and the Centre for Law and Democracy (Global Right to […]

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  • 31 December 2012

    Punjab FOI Bill Proposed, Critic Voices Reservations

    The government of Punjab has prepared freedom of information legislation, according to media reports, but one early reaction suggests that much information would be exempted from disclosure. The “bureaucracy” of the Pakistani province has finalized the draft, according to a Dec. 21 article in The Dawn. “The draft was finalised during a meeting of the administrative secretaries […]

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  • 10 December 2012

    Pakistan Government May Propose RTI Legislation

    Pakistan’s coalition government will soon present a right to information bill to parliament, according to the RTI advocacy group Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI). In July, Pakistan’s Senate formed a subcommittee to work with the information ministry to develop freedom of information legislation. (See previous report.) CPDI Program Manager Zahid Abdullah reported […]

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  • 20 July 2012

    Pakistan Senate Forms Committee to Study FOI

    Pakistan’s Senate has formed a subcommittee to work with the information ministry to develop freedom of information legislation. The Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting on July 18 approved establishment of the committee, which will be convened by Senator Farhatullah Babar, with senators Syed Zafar Ali Shah and Daud Khan Achakzai as members. The […]

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  • 6 July 2012

    Pakistani Agencies Fail When Tested, CPDI Study Finds

    Only two out of 54 Pakistani federal and provincial departments initially provided information information requested by the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) in a recent study. Twenty-five departments responded positively but after the applicant got help from the federal or provincial ombudsman. CPDI concluded that the federal and provincial governments should repeal the […]

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  • 25 April 2012

    Effective RTI Law Needed in Pakistan; Model Law Drafted

    By Muhammad Aftab Alam Alam is the executive director of the newly established  Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA), a new not-for-profit Pakistani independent policy, advocacy, research and training organization. This article first appeared in The News and is reprinted with permission of the author. “The Indian Right to Information Act, 2005 and its […]

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  • 27 January 2012

    Ruling Underscores Need for RTI Bill in Pakistan

    By Ikramul Hag and Huzaima Bukhari The writers are lawyers and visiting professors at the Lahore University of Management Sciences. This article first appeared Jan 17 in The News, and is reprinted by permission of the authors. “Every citizen shall have the right to have access to information in all matters of public importance subject […]

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  • 14 October 2011

    Rehman Offers RTI Bill in Pakistan National Assembly

    Member of Parliament Sherry Rehman Oct. 11 introduced a right to information bill in the Pakistan National Assembly. Her bill, however, does not yet have the support of the government. The government “did not oppose the private member’s bill,” noted one newspaper report. “It is ironic that it has been tabled as a private member’s […]

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  • 17 June 2011

    Pakistani Group Seeks Appointment of Ombudsman

    The Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) has called for the appointment of the Federal Ombudsman in Pakistan, pointing out that the position has been vacant since the end of October 2010. The Office of the Federal Ombudsman was established as the result of President’s order 1 of 1983, CPDI noted, with the purpose […]

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  • 24 March 2011

    Pakistani Activists Urge Promise-Keeping on RTI

     The Pakistan government should fulfill its promise to enact a new right to information law, activists said during a demonstration in Islamabad. A March 17 walk to the parliament building was organized by the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives.  They asked why top officials have not fulfilled pledges to replace the Freedom of Information […]

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  • 25 February 2011

    Pakistani RTI Supporters Rally for Law in Punjab Province

    By Zahid Abdullah The writer is based in Islamabad, Pakistan, and works for the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives They had gathered to protest about the denial of their right to information. The venue was the road in front of Rawalpindi Press Club and the date Feb. 22, 2011. There were only sixty of […]

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  • 24 January 2011

    Pakistani Official Says FOI Proposal Nearing Completion

    A top Pakistani official said Jan. 22 that that a draft right to information bill would be finalized by mid-February, according to a press account. Speaking at a meeting of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Qamar Zaman Kaira, said consultations with stakeholders are nearly concluded. […]

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  • 5 November 2010

    Request Problems in Pakistan Documented in Article

    Several examples of the difficulties of accessing information in Pakistan were discussed in a recent article by Zahid Abdullah, who works for Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives. The Pakistan law, he said, is “a very weak law in the shape of Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002 and whatever effectiveness it had was watered down […]

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  • 26 May 2009

    Secret Summaries of World Bank Meetings Illuminate Proceedings

      The “minutes” of the World Bank’s executive board meetings, released publicly, are brief notations of the official action, usually one paragraph.  They reveal almost nothing about what transpired during the closed deliberations. The “summaries,” by contrast, describe the key points of discussion.  They condense, without names, the comments made by the executive directors. The […]

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  • 21 April 2009

    Disclosure Allegations about the West African Gas Pipeline Project

    In 2006, a case was brought to the Inspections Panel over the controversial West African Gas Pipeline Project. The list of disclosure-related allegations was extensive. According to the complainants, although West African Gas Pipeline Company (WAPCo) periodically consulted landowners, other stakeholders were wrongly excluded and the overwhelming majority of our people were not consulted during […]

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  • 17 March 2009

    Hello, Hello: Calling the World Bank

    Finding the World Bank’s front door in order to ask for nonpublic information isn’t easy.  Here’s the right answer: Value that answer; getting it took a while. Here’s my saga. Actually, I started in the right place and then got more and more confused. When I first wrote I asked simply if they […]

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  • 17 March 2009

    World Bank Rejects Disclosure of Aide Memoires

    The World Bank has rejected a request by a civil society group for a key document about a major water project in the Punjab province of Pakistan.   The denial is not unexpected — it follows the letter of the Bank’s disclosure policy — but is very frustrating to Mushtaq Gaadi, who works with an […]

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  • 17 July 2008

    PAKISTAN: Access to Information Advocates Criticize Proposed Freedom of Information Bill

    The Consumer Rights Commission of Pakistan (CRCP) this week held a consultation on the draft Freedom of Information Bill of 2008, which is likely to soon be tabled for consideration by the legislature. The CRCP, which has been working for to strengthen the freedom of information (FOI) framework in Pakistan since 1998, expressed reservations about […]

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  • 9 August 2005

    Pakistan Newspaper Reports on Nonpublic World Bank Document

    A newspaper in Pakistan has written about a nonpublic World Bank report evaluating ten years of World Bank activities in Pakistan and shedding light on the process of preparing such major evaluations. The evaluation report is generally unfavorable to the World Bank, according to the Business Recorder, which wrote about the conclusions in a July […]

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LEGAL DOCUMENTS Constitution (1973)   Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002, No. XCVI of 2002. F. No. 2(1)/2002-Pub. Islamabad (26 October 2002)   Freedom of Information Rules 2004   Electronic Data Protection and Safety Act of 2005   ORGANIZATIONS Transparency International Pakistan   Pakistan Press Foundation   OTHER RESOURCES Article 19, Global Trends on the Right to Information: A Survey of South Asia (July 2001). History of RTI in Pakistan (By SHEHRI) HISTORICAL BACKGROUND Click to view. Text from the Global Survey: Freedom of Information and Access to Government Records Around the World, by David Banisar (updated July 2006)


The Constitution of Pakistan does not expressly give a right of access to information. Article 19 states:
Every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, and there shall be freedom of the press, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, commission of or incitement to an offence.(1)
The Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that Article 19 includes a right of citizens to receive information.(2) In October 2002, President Perviz Musharraf promulgated the Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002, largely at the urging of the Asian Development Bank.(3) Although the Ordinance should have lapsed within 6 months, the President has issued a constitutional decree which has ensured the continuance of the Ordinance. The Ombudsman ruled in April 2004 that the Ordinance still was in force even in the absence of the regulations.(4) Rules were issued in June 2004, but without any input from stakeholders.(5) Civil society groups have since lobbied the Government to implement Model Rules, but to no avail. It allows any citizen access to official records held by a public body of the federal government including ministries, departments, boards, councils, courts and tribunals. It does not apply to government-owned corporations or to provincial governments. The bodies must respond within 21 days. There is some ambiguity about what information is accessible. The Ordinance allows access to “official records” and then sets out an exceptions regime subject to a harm test for international relations, law enforcement; invasion of privacy; and economic and commercial affairs of a public body. However, it also allows access to “public records” which it specifically defines as only policies and guidelines; transactions involving acquisition and disposal of property; licenses and contracts; final orders and decisions; and other records as notified by the government. It then makes these public records subject to mandatory exemptions for: notings on files; minutes of meetings; any intermediary opinion or recommendation; individuals’ bank account records; defense forces and national security; classified information; personal privacy; documents given in confidence; other records decreed by the government. Government bodies are required to appoint an official to handle requests. They also have a duty to publish acts, regulations, manuals, orders and other rules that have a force of law, and maintain and index records. It specifically requires that those records covered by it are computerized and networked throughout the country within a reasonable time, subject to finances, to facilitate access. Appeals of denials can be made to the Wafaqi Mohtasib (Ombudsman) or for tax-related matters, to the Federal Tax Ombudsman. The Ombudsmen have the power to make binding orders. Officials that destroy records with the intention of preventing disclosure can be fined and imprisoned for up to two years. The Mohtasib can fine requesters Rs10,000 for making “frivolous, vexatious or malicious” complaints. The law says that it applies notwithstanding other laws such as the Official Secrets Act, which is based on the original UK OSA 1911 and sets broad restrictions on the disclosure of classified information.(6) The Consumer Rights Commission of Pakistan has called for the repeal of the OSA to facilitate freedom of information. Media groups and NGOs report that the Act has not been fully implemented and access is still difficult.(7) As recently as March 2006, the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives held a workshop for the Cabinet Division of Government following which it commented that many information officers are still not fully aware of their roles and responsibilities under the Ordinance. CPDI complained that implementation of the Ordinance still requires a major cultural and attitudinal shift on the part of government officials. It recommended that the government improve the current restrictive legislative framework, organize training and sensitization workshops, provide clear and detailed guidelines to designated officers about dealing with information requests and ensure that all ministries prepare lists and indexation of records held by them and publish them on websites.(8) It has also demanded that all parliamentary committees promote greater access to information to open up government decision-making processes, because most committees considering legislative bills or performing oversight duties hold their meetings privately without disclosing their minutes.(9) The National Assembly rejected an attempt by the opposition Pakistan People’s Party in October 2004 to introduce a bill to create a comprehensive law on freedom of information. None of the 4 provinces has adopted FOI laws for information held by provincial bodies. Two ministers from the North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) promised in August 2004 to adopt a FOI law for NWPF.(10) 2004 Global Survey Results – Pakistan



Measuring Openness

Global Right to Information Rating
A country-by-country rating of laws by the Centre for Democracy and Law and Access Info.

Freedom House
The Freedom in the World report.

World Bank
Worldwide Governance Indicators

Transparency International, Corruption Perceptions Index
Measures perceptions of the degree of corruption.

Reporters Without Borders
The Press Freedom Index.