CGPA slams delay in presenting KP RTI Bill for governor’s assent

Centre for Governance and Public Accountability (CGPA) shows strong reservations on undue delay in presenting Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Right to Information (RTI) Bill for KP Governor's assent.

The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Governor promulgated KP RTI Ordinance on August 13, 2013, and just before lapsing of the Ordinance in 90 days, KP Provincial Assembly enacted the KP RTI Bill on October 31, 2013. However, despite more than one month of its passage in KP Provincial Assembly, the Governor is yet to assent KP RTI Bill. KP province has no RTI law now as the Governor has not yet put his signature on the Bill and, therefore, it is not yet notified in the official gazette.

Muhammad Zahoor, Executive Director CGPA, said civil society groups appreciated and supported KP government initiative for bringing RTI law to ensure citizens' constitutional right to information. However, he expressed his concern that there are undue procedural delays in formal enactment of the law. The Bill, once passed by the Provincial Assembly, should have been presented to the KP Governor on the very next day for his assent. However, KP government did not show the same efficiency as it did on August 13, 2013, when the KP RTI Ordinance was promulgated through KP Governor in very haste. By not presenting the RTI Bill passed by KP Provincial Assembly, the KP government is violating Article 116 of the Constitution of Pakistan, which states: "When a Bill has been passed by the Provincial Assembly it shall be presented to the Governor for assent".

Furthermore, the KP government is also violating Article 19-A of the Constitution of Pakistan, which states "Every citizen shall have the right to have access to information in all matters of public importance subject to regulation and reasonable restrictions imposed by law". Delay in presenting KP RTI Bill for KP Governor's assent is tantamount to debarring citizens of Pakistan living in KP province from exercising their basic constitutional right.

Zahoor further explained that CGPA recently submitted information requests to 25 district headquarters hospitals on availability of basic medical equipment. Only four district headquarters hospitals responded within 10 days, as required by the RTI Bill, while the rest 21 did not provide any information. He said CGPA is not able to file complaints against 21 district headquarters hospitals that did not provide information, as no KP provincial information commission has been established so far.

Zahoor further stated that KP government and KP Provincial Assembly should present the passed KP RTI Bill for the governor's assent as soon as possible. He further demanded KP provincial information commission should be established without further delay. Without establishing the commission, this very good RTI law would have no worth, he concluded.