Islamabad, January 5: In the country’s first ever consolidated assessment and scoring of Right to Information/Freedom of Information (RTI/FOI) laws and their implementation at Federal and Provincial levels, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s (KP’s) Right to Information Act, 2013 and the KP Right to Information Commission (RTIC) secured 1st place in the overall rankings with a score of 73%.
Punjab’s Transparency and Right to Information Act, 2013 and the Punjab Information Commission (PIC) formed under it ranked at 2nd position with an overall score of 65%. Balochistan’s Freedom of Information Act, 2005 and the Provincial Government of Balochistan stood at 3rd place in the overall rankings with a score of 29%, whereas the Freedom of Information Ordinance, 2002 and the Federal Government of Pakistan ranked 4th, with an overall score of 26%. Sindh’s Freedom of Information Act, 2006 and the Provincial Government of Sindh earned the lowest position in the overall rankings with a score of only 24%.
Speaking at the RTI Scorecard launch, Ms. Saman Sultana Jafri said younger parliamentarians are doing what they can to push for better RTI legislation, however it is the senior political leadership and parliamentarians who do not give Right to Information its due importance. Mr. Sheheryar Afridi lamented the lack of transparency within the legislature, which he hoped would be strengthened by passage of a new Federal RTI law. Senator Hasil Khan Bizenjo reiterated the need for Members of Parliament to give greater priority to transparency and public accountability, in addition to highlighting the need for a more robust RTI law at the Federal level. Hafiz Tahir Khalil suggested that parliamentarians present at the Launch should meet with the Chairman Senate and push for the passage of the Federal RTI Bill.
Honourable Senators Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo (NP, Balochistan), Usman Khan Kakar, (PKMAP, KP), Dr. Ashok Kumar (NP, Sindh), Saeed Ul Hasan Mandokhail, (PML, Balochistan) and Nawabzada Saifullah Magsi, (PPPP, Balochistan) were present at the Launch along with Honourable Members of National Assembly Ms. Asma Mamdot, (Women, Punjab, PML-N), Ms. Amra Khan (Women, Punjab, PML-N), Ms. Naeema Kishwer (Women, KP, JUI-F), Syed Ali Raza Abidi (NA-251, Karachi IIV, MQM), Mr. Shehryar Khan Afridi, (NA -14, Kohat, KP, PTI,), Syed Rehan Hashmi (Na-245, Karachi-VII, MQM), Ms. Saman Sultana Jafri (Women, Sindh, MQM), Ms. Nafeesa Inayatullah Khattak (Women, KP, PTI).
Seniors media persons including Mr. Ghazi Salahuddin, The News/Jang, Mr. Muhammad Ziauddin, Mr. Sohail Chaudhry, Daily Pakistan, Mr. Wasif Chaudhry, Associated Press of Pakistan, Mr. Waseem Abbasi, The News, Mr. Ikram Junaidi, Dawn, Ms. Batool Rajput and Mr. Ameer Abbas, Dawn TV, and Mr. Azaz Syed, Geo/The News, were also present at the Launch.
On strength of Legal Framework, Punjab ranked 1st ahead of KP. KP law ranked behind Punjab in this area because, unlike Punjab, it provides blanket immunity to the Peshawar High Court and does not extend the right to information to all citizens of Pakistan or legally incorporated entities. KP’s law, unlike Punjab, also fails to specify that Information Commissioners may only be removed by a multi-party committee of legislators. It does not specify which official or body has final authority in overruling the application of exemptions in public interest. FOI laws in effect within Federal, Sindh and Balochistan Governments received similar scores in terms of strength of Legal Framework, primarily because they do not ensure comprehensive access to different categories of information; they provide blanket immunity to defense institutions and do not derogate against secrecy-promoting laws like the Official Secrets Act, 1923.
On Implementation, KP RTIC secured 1st position ahead of its counterpart in Punjab, the PIC. The PIC stood 2nd as it was unable to effectively monitor the implementation of RTI within public bodies under its purview. PIC’s performance in terms of monitoring implementation especially fell short of the RTIC in terms of number of inspections of public bodies conducted, proportion of Annual Reports received from public bodies and the regularity with which it was able to update its website with details on implementation of RTI. The PIC was also unable to train as high a proportion of Public Information Officers (PIOs) as the RTIC, primarily due to understaffing and delays in release of its first Budget. In terms of processing of complaints, the PIC had a longer processing time than the RTIC, and lower disclosure rate and higher pendency rate.
The Balochistan Government was ranked 3rd in terms of strength of RTI/FOI Implementation, ahead of the Federal Government in 4th position and the Sindh Government in 5th position. Balochistan was ranked ahead of the Federal and Sindh Governments, as it was able to provide a greater proportion of information on implementation requested by PILDAT, including information on the designation of PIOs. Implementation of FIO at Federal level and within Sindh and Balochistan was marred because their Governments, unlike KP and Punjab, have yet to establish dedicated agencies which have been allocated resources exclusively for coordinating implementation and addressing complaints against non-provision of implementation.
The Comparative RTI Scorecard has been prepared by PILDAT under the Enhanced Democratic Accountability and Civic Engagement (EDACE) Project, which received support from the Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI).
The Complete text of PILDAT’s Comparative
Scorecard on Right to Information (RTI) Legislation and Implementation in Pakistan
at Federal and Provincial levels can be accessed at: