There is no access to the draft of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Right to Information Ordinance.
Though the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led provincial government showed some intent by approving the proposed legislation in its first cabinet meeting on July 10, it is, however, treating the ordinance as a classified document.
The Right to Information bill should have been implemented following the 18th constitutional amendment in 2010, but lingered on for years under the Awami National Party’s (ANP) tenure. After assuming charge, the PTI government promptly approved the draft of the bill in an attempt to set up a transparent system of governance.
The bill was to be implemented through a governor’s ordinance by July 15 as the assembly is not currently in session, and thus usher in an era of public accountability. However, the provincial government has remained silent over the issue. By not making the legislation available for public scrutiny, the government is negating its very purpose.
Executive Director at the Peshawar-based Centre for Governance and Public Accountability (CGPA) Zahoor Khan said he has requested the government to make the contents of the Right to Information Ordinance public so that civil society groups and media can provide their input. “While it is a very positive step taken by the K-P government, the very intent of the legislation becomes suspicious when it is treated as a highly classified document,” he said.
The K-P government’s website has no mention of the bill or its content. “A CGPA representative even visited the K-P provincial establishment and information departments and was told by representatives of the concerned departments that the bill cannot be made public,” claimed Khan. “Disbanding citizens from participation in such matters of public importance is against the claims of good governance in K-P.”
The K-P government must first make the Right to Information document public to get feedback on its contents. When the ordinance is converted into an act on the assembly floor, it will stand a proper chance of being amended if deemed necessary in the larger interest of the public.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 21st, 2013.