Law on right to information demanded in Pata too

PESHAWAR: The Centre for Governance and Public Accountability, a civil society organisation, on Thursday urged the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to extend the right to information law to the provincially administered tribal areas for the benefit of the people.

CGPA executive director Mohammad Anwar told reporters at the Peshawar Press Club that the government should immediately notify rules of business of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Right to Information Act for its ‘operationalisation’ in the province.

He said the government had passed the law on right to information but it was so far failed to notify its rules of business.

Mohammad Anwar said the rules should have been framed immediately after its enforcement of the law as it was still awaited due to bureaucratic hurdles.

He demanded notification of rules of business under the provincial RTI law for its operationalisation without delay.

Civil society organisation also urges govt to notify RTI law’s rules of business

The CGPA chief said the RTI law came into force in October 2013 but it had yet to be extended in Pata.

He said Article 19-A of the Constitution provided for the citizens’ right to access information held by public bodies but Pata people were denied that constitutional right due to non-extension of the provincial RTI law to their region.

Mohammad Anwar said unfortunately, Pata people had no legal means to gain access to the information held by public entities.

“While citizens of the rest of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province have been provided with the right to information, there is a sense of deprivation among the people of Pata on the matter,” he said. The CGPA chief said representatives of Pata were part of the provincial assembly and that they participated in legislation but Article 247 of the Constitution restricted their representation.

“The laws passed by the provincial assembly are not directly applicable to Pata. Under Article 246 of the Constitution, tribal areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa includes Swat, Upper Dir, Lower Dir and Chitral districts, tribal area of Kohistan district, and Malakand protected area. We demand amendment to Article 247 of the Constitution so that all laws are applicable to Pata, too, soon after their passage by the provincial assembly,” he said.

Mohammad Anwar said enactment of the RTI law was a great step forward for improving democratic principles and strengthening state institutions but beneficiaries of the ‘culture of secrecy’ had turned out to be the main hurdles to the law’s operationalisation.

He urged civil society and media to be vigilant of such forces and raise public awareness of the provincial RTI law.

The CGPA chief praised the provincial RTI commission for being proactive in enforcing the RTI law and said it was encouraging to see 233 people file complaints with the commission against public bodies denying them the sought-after information.

“The commission has disposed of 135 cases, while decision on 98 cases is awaited,” he said. Mohammad Anwar urged the provincial RTI commission to ensure proactive disclosure by public bodies in line with the law. He urged provincial MPAs to amend the provincial RTI law for including the Peshawar High Court in the scope of the law.