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Federal Information Commission likely to be notified today

By Waseem Abbasi
May 31, 2018

ISLAMABAD: On the day when its term expires, federal government is likely to notify the Federal Information Commission, an appellate body responsible for ensuring implementation of Right to Information Law, The News has learnt.

Although government has missed a six-month deadline to set up the commission, still the appointment is termed a landmark development for transparency and good governance in the country, as it will for the first time ensure access to government information for general public.

According to sources, three persons have been shortlisted for the commission including a leading civil society member who played vital role in promotion of RTI in Pakistan, a Grade 22 government officer and a person who is qualified to be the judge of high court.

One of these three will be appointed as Chief Information Commissioner. The sources said civil society activists and RTI campaigner Zahid Abdullah is leading contender for the post. Zahid who lost sight in 2001 after an ailment, played key role in enactment and promotion of RTI laws in Punjab, KP, Sindh and the Centre.

When contacted, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb confirmed that the notification for the appointment of the commission members will be issued today (Wednesday). “The summary was pending with the prime minister office for last two days as the government was waiting for wetting of the rules by the Ministry of Law,” the minister said.

She also confirmed that rules for the Federal Information Commission has been finalised. “It was an uphill task to implement RTI law in Pakistan and our government will be credited for ensuring transparency in the country,” the minister said. The enactment of law shows the commitment of the federal government with transparency, openness and public accountability.

The federal ‘Right of Access to Information Act, 2017’ was enacted on October 16, 2017. The PML-N government was legally bound to establish the commission, which is an appellate forum, within six months of the enactment of law so that citizens could effectively utilise it. However, the government could not fulfil its legal obligation until April 16, 2018.

According to the section 18, the prime minster is responsible to establish information commission within six months. Information commissions are oversight bodies responsible for deciding complaints filed by citizens over non-provision of information by the public bodies and spreading awareness about RTI. Not only this, the commission can even penalise a public official for not disclosing the information related to public matters.