Enactment of law on access to information sought

The Centre for Governance and Public Accountability, a non-governmental organisation demanded for enactment of law on "Access to Information" as per the international best practices of rights in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. The constitutional right of citizens is being continuously violated by public bodies due to absence of such legislation in the province.

There is need to make comprehensive law on Right to Information, for attainment of this legal right, said a press release issued by CGPA here on Tuesday. The CGPA demanded for making a comprehensive RTI law in KP, and its immediate enactment according to the international best practices of right to information legislation. The organization further demanded the law shall provide for proactive disclosure of information, minimum exclusion/exception list of information not to be accessed under the RTI law; and independent and powerful provincial information commission to decide on denial of information requests.

The organisation expressed voice concern over non-distribution of budget documents among 23 districts, out of total 25 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. Of the total districts, the relevant financial departments and institutes only provided budget documents to two districts, despite filing of request by CGPA with Districts Officers, Finance and Planning (DOs-F&P) of respective districts, according to press release issued by the organisation here on Tuesday.

The CGPA filed information requests for provision of district health and education budget books of Fiscal Year (FY) 2011-2012 and FY 2012-2013. Article 19-A of Constitution of Pakistan was cited in these information requests, which states that 'every citizen shall have the right to have access to information in all matters of public importance subject to regulations and reasonable restriction imposed by law'. These information requests were filed on January 5-6, 2013.

However, out of total 25 DOs-F&P, only two DOs-F&P (Chitral and Upper Dir) provided the requested information, while DO-F&P of Malakand district responded that such information can be accessed from finance department of KP provincial secretariat. CGPA did not receive any response from DOs-F&P of remaining 23 districts of KP.

CGPA lamented that such attitude of public service providers is causing huge frustration amongst citizens. Disclosure of such information could do public good by promoting citizens' trust on state functionaries. Public service providers are entrusted to spend citizens' tax money for public well-being through transparent and accountable manner. The right to information legislation is considered anti-corruption tool and oxygen for democracy. Treating budget books as official secrets is tantamount to violation of basic constitutional right of citizens of Pakistan.