In February 2021, the Balochistan Government repealed the ineffective Balochistan Freedom of Information Act, 2005 with an effective Balochistan Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2021 to ensure meaningful participation of citizens in the democratic process. Also, to improve the involvement and contribution of citizens in public affairs. The move is laudable because it will improve service delivery matters, governance, transparency, and accountability.
Under the RTI Act, 2021, public bodies are required to provide the requested information within 15 working days. Meanwhile, under section 18 of the Act, the Balochistan government shall establish an Information Commission by appointing three Information Commissioners within 120 days of the commencement of the Act. This Commission would be an independent statutory body, which will be responsible to deal with complaints, conduct hearings, issuing summons, conduct training of government officials, and undertake awareness-raising for citizens regarding RTI law and its importance.
Unfortunately, with the passage of 269 days, the Balochistan government has failed to establish a Commission. Neither has it designated or notified Public Information Officers (PIO) in any department. The PIOs would be responsible to provide the requested information and in case of delay or denial, the Balochistan Information Commission (BIC) shall have to decide these complaints. Without the appellate body and designation of PIOs, the Act is toothless and dysfunctional and, hence, the people’s right to information is denied. The provincial department does not share the requested information and citizens are unable to lodge complaints in absence of the BIC. This demonstrates that the intentions of the Balochistan government are not sincere. They are not committed to improving transparency and accountability in the province.
Syed Raza Ali
Published in The Express Tribune, November 21st, 2021.