A new era promising residents of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) freedom of information is now just a matter of days away, The Express Tribune learnt on Thursday.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led government is all set to implement what is to be called the ‘Access to Information Act’ in the province, according to sources at the Civil Secretariat Peshawar.
“After its implementation, the Access to Information Act is supposed to bring about an age where there is a flow of information to the general public. Giving access to those who seek to evaluate any government department’s activities and its performance,” explained an official.
“It can do the public good by promoting citizens’ trust in state functionaries.”
A day earlier, K-P Chief Minister Pervez Khattak said his government had approved the Access to Information bill. This piece of legislation will lead to corruption-free and transparent governance in the province, added Khattak.
After the 18th Constitutional Amendment was passed in April 2010, freedom of information became a provincial subject. However, it has taken K-P more than three years to pass the bill with the previous government led by the Awami National Party (ANP) unsuccessful in implementing the act during its tenure.
Before the last assembly session in March, former information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain had stated they had good intentions regarding the right to information. However, he added, the K-P government was mindful of how other provinces acted in this regard and was waiting on the centre to take the first steps.
Official sources had confirmed the rough draft on a right to information policy was still in the bureaucracy’s hold when the ANP-led government was completing its tenure.
The current provincial government responded quickly and set a July 15 deadline to implement the Access to Information bill and approved the measure in the first formal cabinet meeting which took place on July 9.
From bill to act
A meeting was held a day earlier at the Civil Secretariat Peshawar between officials from the secretariat and the K-P information department to finalise the bill.
The bill has been vetted and is ready to be sent to the governor for approval at the earliest to implement it as an ordinance, added an official at the law department. This will allow the government to stick by its July 15 deadline.
After the governor’s approval, the bill will be presented at the next K-P Assembly session where, if passed, it will become an act within a time period stipulated by the constitution, explained the official.
Sharing the broad contours of the bill, the law department official said a chief information officer would head the operation as per the Access to Information bill. Every government department will have an information officer who will be the public’s point of contact for accessing information.
“Every government department under the bill needs to have a website and is bound to update it on a daily basis.”
Even though every government department has a website at the moment, not all are regularly updated.
“The information sought by a person has to be provided within a week,” informed the official.
Once passed, the Access to Information Act will make it binding on relevant officials to provide information within the given timeframe. The official did not share the list of excluded/exception information, if any, which cannot be accessed through the act.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 12th, 2013.