Law on right to information not being extended to Pata

PESHAWAR: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa senior minister for local government and rural development Inayatullah Khan on Monday complained despite repeated requests, the federal government was not extending the KP Right to Information Act 2013 to the Provincially Administrated Tribal Areas (Pata).

This was stated by the minister during a seminar on ‘implementation of the KP RTI Law, progress challenges and way forward’ here. The event was organised jointly by the Centre for Governance and Public Accountability (CGPA) and the KP Information Commission.

A statement issued here said Mr. Inayatullah told the seminar that the provincial assembly should support amendments proposed by the KP Information Commission.

He said the proposed amendments were related to the inclusion of the Peshawar High Court in the ambit of the RTI law, penalties on the provision of false information by public bodies in the law, and empowerment of public information officers (PIOs). The minister said the government was duty bound to ensure proactive disclosure of information under the KP RTI law.

KP chief information commissioner Sahibzada Khalid, who was also in attendance, said the three generations of public servants had served under the Official Secret Act but suddenly things made a turn and the disclosure of information previously considered to be illegal became mandatory.

He said once the KP Ehtesab Commission refused to provide information on the notice sent by the KP Information Commission and that a complaint on it was pending decision.

Information commissioner Justice (r) Abudul Matin briefed participants about the proposed amendments to the KP RTI law. He said if the KP assembly approved the amendments, the high-ups wouldn’t be able to force PIOs into withholding the sought-after information.

Another information commissioner Professor Kalimullah said poor maintenance and indexing of record by the public bodies had been the main hurdle to the implementation of the RTI law. “In many cases, the record is so poorly maintained that PIOs cannot offer information even if they want to,” he said.

KP information secretary Abid Majeed said his department had ensured proactive disclosure of information through its official website. He said even the information on his salary and privileges, the department’s staff members, budget and newspaper advertisements was posted on the website as required under the RTI law.

CGPA executive director Mohammad Anwar said of the 1,595 complaints received by the information commission, 373 were about education sector followed by 172 about health sector. He said most of the complaints were about denial of the information, which should be proactively disclosed by the public sector organizations.