Access to Information is a right of the Pakistani people
Access to Information Act of 2002 came into effect for ordinary citizens. On the occasion of World Right to Information Day, which is celebrated on September 28, many Pakistanis complain that they are not being given access to important government information.
Pakistan Provincial Information Commissioners
More than two decades ago, in 2002, two years after the Right to Information Act came into force in Pakistan, in 2004, the government also made rules to make the implementation of this Act effective. However, many experts, analysts, and ordinary citizens still seem to complain that it is proving to be a difficult process to provide important information to ordinary citizens by respecting this law without any demand. In Pakistan, provincial Information commissioners have also been appointed at the level for many years, whose job is that if ordinary citizens ask for any information from the government, but the government departments or institutions do not provide that information, then these information commissioners intervene using their powers and citizens Make sure to provide them with the information they need.
Right to Information Act
Another problem is that there are many levels of skepticism regarding the Right to Information Act in Pakistan. Then there are many times that various government agencies refuse to provide the requests of the applicants as “sensitive information”. Regarding the implementation of this law in Pakistan, Pakistan’s Chief Information Commissioner Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui said in an interview with DW, “These are baseless and rumor-based allegations.” This is not the case at all. We have made the process of accessing information extremely easy keeping in mind the public convenience.
Most information Sought by the Citizens
According to Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui, “the most information sought by the citizens during the first six months of this year was about the Capital Development Authority (CDA), Ministry of Finance, and NADRA.” The Rs 39.7 million in our budget is woefully insufficient. The staff also consists of only 12 people. But still, we try to provide the required information to the applicants within one to two dates. Recently, while processing an appeal, we took away a 50-year record from CDA within a month. So, this commission is continuously doing better than before.
Commissioner of Pakistan
The Chief Information Commissioner of Pakistan further said, “What is being object to the most is that the government made a rule in this commission in 2019 that every applicant must state that he has obtained the required information from somewhere else.” Don’t ask. The point was that working on the same application in different locations would be a waste of time, financial resources, and energy. Therefore, if every applicant writes this in their application, it becomes easier for us and a lot of time can save.
But what happens is that most common citizens do not even write these two sentences with their applications. Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui told DW that the right to information is being worked on, but it is still not being done as much as it should be.
How effective is RTI for journalists?
“A very powerful bureaucracy in Pakistan considers itself above the law,” Nadeem Umar, a freelance journalist who has been using this legal option for the past ten years, told DW. She doesn’t want him to be accountable to the public. Therefore, many government institutions usually avoid their transmission by declaring even the basic information as sensitive. An example of this is when a colleague of ours demand to provide with a list of films that were censor and whose release was block in Pakistan, surprisingly the Censor Board also provide this information. Declaring it sensitive, they refuse to supply it.
Pakistani Bureaucracy General
Nadeem Umar claimed that the Pakistani bureaucracy generally tries to discourage citizens from the very beginning, even to the point that ordinary users abandon the use of the law. According to him, in such a case practical help from the Provincial Information Commissioners becomes even more decisive.
Farah Hamid Khan, Chief Information Commissioner of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said in an interview with DW about the use of RTI law in Pakistan, “In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, most of the requests we receive are from ordinary citizens. Ministries are about education, health, and local government. In most of these cases, applicants receive the required information within 21 days. If not, then the complaints come to us and we try to get this information as soon as possible.”
In response to a question about how many people are on the staff of this information commission in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and how much is the budget, Farah Hamid Khan said, “Our staff consists of about 40 people. The budget is about 60 million rupees, which is insufficient. There has been no increase in this budget for two years. We also ensure that if there is any deficiency in an application, the applicant is call and told to include the remaining necessary details in his application so that work can start on his appeal immediately. “
Legal Expert of the Institute for Research
Aftab Alam, director and legal expert of the Institute for Research. Advocacy, and Development, a non-governmental organization in Pakistan. Told DW, “A new trend is being seen with the arrival of the new batch of the Federal Information Commission.” Many applications or appeals are being reject on technical grounds. This commission has develop a complex form, which is not commonly understood. Then there is a long list of prerequisites, which is a difficult task to fulfill. It also happens that even after fulfilling all the conditions, the application is reject with some excuse. Access to Information Apparently, this is a common thing, but this is actually making it difficult to get justice.
Former Chief Information Commissioner of Punjab
Aftab Alam said, “An example of this method is the former Chief Information Commissioner of Punjab, Mukhtar Ahmed Ali.” He asked the registrar of the Supreme Court of the country. For the details of all the officers of the judiciary. But the registrar refuse saying that the judiciary. Does not come under the purview of this law. This decision was then challenge in the same high court. So the application was not hear during the tenure of former Chief Justice Umar Atta Bandial. Now the new Chief Justice Qazi Faiz Isa has start working on this request.