(Not) At your fingertips: ‘K-P lags behind in implementing Right to Information’

Peshawar: The government needs to take prompt steps to give citizens access to information as mandated through Article 19-A, recommended Centre for Governance and Public (CGPA) Programme Coordinator Abid Hussain.

He further said the public should be involved when making the budget and be given access to relevant documents.

“The implementation of the Right to Information (RTI) Act remains a far cry from reality,” Hussain told participants at a training on ‘Budget Advocacy and Accountability’ on Thursday. A large number of journalists from various media organizations, students and members of non-governmental organizations attended the event.

CGPA has launched the ‘Promoting of Public Accountability Project’, aimed to create awareness in the province about the need to enforce Article 19-A, in light of the 18th Constitutional amendment.

Hussain highlighted the issues being faced in attaining budget-related documents and other relevant information.

“The enforcement of the RTI has become mandatory for Pakistan in order to attain funding from international donors agencies, particularly the Asian Development Bank. However, the former Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government failed to legislate on the freedom of information, despite conditional funding from donor states.”

The CGPA is carrying out a consultative process with relevant stakeholders, including civil society organizations, lawyers, public representatives and media organizations.

The participants discussed the progress Punjab and Sindh have made in legislating the Freedom of Information Act and said Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa still lags behind.

The effective functioning of democracy depends upon the participation of a well-informed citizenry in public life. Throughout the world, Freedom of Information (FoI) laws are changing the nature of democratic governance, participants said.

The lack of such legislature, participants added, meant there was no solid mechanism to hold government officials accountable over the utilization of development funds at district levels.

At the workshop, there was a call for representatives from political parties to include the enactment of the FOI Act in their manifestos.