Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s new law on the Right to Information is not just reserved for state secrets. As 28-year-old Sabahat Ghaznavi found out, it could help him get his job back.
Ghaznavi, who has dabbled in television journalism, had applied for a position as a computer operator at the Bureau of Agriculture Information in December 2013. After the test and interview for the grade 16 post, the merit list was displayed and his name was on it as a successful candidate. It was put up on the notice board at the department but was removed after a short while.
“It made me suspicious about the intentions of the department,” Ghaznavi said. “When I asked why the merit list had been removed, I was told that due to unknown circumstances the job offer has been cancelled and it would be re-advertised in February 2014.” (The job was, in fact, re-advertised in March 2014 in the daily Aaj newspaper.)
Instead of buying this story, Ghaznavi used the new K-P RTI law and went to its commission. He requested its help to give him access to the minutes of the test and interview and the merit list that was produced afterwards. After he was given these documents, he went to the Peshawar High Court and it ruled in his favour.
He joined work as a computer operator on June 25 this year. “I am relieved,” he said. “I got my right through the RTI law.”
Luckily for him the law was passed by the K-P Assembly on October 31, 2013. It aims to ensure transparency and access to information in the province. He says he would never have found out had it not been for the RTI law. It empowered him as a citizen to ask for the relevant documents and find out why his job was re-advertised without any reason.
If there was no RTI law he would not have been able to pursue the source of information. He now feels that RTI-like laws can provide “real stability” in a country and do away with all kinds of corruption and malpractice. “I am here because of the RTI law and I will always spread the word about it to inform other people about using it to beat corruption in society,” he resolved.
It seems that Ghaznavi’s is one of the handful of cases that are surfacing. According to the RTI Commission’s chief Major (retd) Sahibzada Muhammad Khalid, they have received 71 cases so far out of which 31 have been tackled and the rest are being heard. Each case has a 60-day deadline.
For years, government officials have jealously guarded the secrecy of official business but now the RTI law mandates access to information. It is just a matter of using it.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2014.