Pildat launches RTI scoreboard; opposition parliamentarians urge govt to introduce Right to Information (RTI) Bill in parliament
ISLAMABAD: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Right to Information Act, 2013 has secured first position with a score of 73% in a consolidated assessment of Right to Information/Freedom of Information (RTI/FOI) laws and their implementation at federal and provincial levels.
The comparative RTI scorecard was launched on Tuesday by Pildat in a ceremony here.Speaking on the occasion, parliamentarians from the opposition parties urged the federal government to immediately introduce Right to Information (RTI) Bill in Parliament. The bill has been pending with the cabinet for last two years.
According to the report, Punjab’s Transparency and Right to Information Act, 2013 and the Punjab Information Commission (PIC) 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 event, Senator Hasil Khan Bizenjo reiterated the need for parliamentarians 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.Senators Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo (NP, Balochistan), Usman Khan Kakar, (PKMAP, KP), Dr. Ashok Kumar (NP, Sindh), Saeedul Hasan Mandokhail, (PML, Balochistan) and Nawabzada Saifullah Magsi, (PPPP, Balochistan) were present at the launch along with the members of the National Assembly Asma Mamdot and Amra Khan of PML-N, Naeema Kishwer of JUI-F, Syed Ali Raza Abidi, Syed Rehan Hashmi and Saman Sultana Jafri of MQM and Shehryar Khan Afridi and Nafeesa Inayatullah Khattak of PTI.
Seniors media persons, including Ghazi Salahuddin, Muhammad Ziauddin, Sohail Chaudhry, Wasif Chaudhry, Waseem Abbasi, Ikram Junaidi, Batool Rajput and Azaz Syed, 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 BalochistanGovernments 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 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.
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