The commissioner for Punjab’s information commission, Mukhtar Ahmad Ali, on Thursday said the commission faces resistance from government departments in the initial stage of implementation of the right to information (RTI) law.
“They (government departments) are accustomed to official secrecy and usually turn to bureaucratic tactics to not provide information. However, the commission should be resolute in implementing the law in its true letter and spirit,” said Ali while addressing a seminar titled ‘Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Right to Information Act 2013: Challenges, Opportunities and the Way Forward’. Jointly organised by the K-P RTI Commission and Center for Governance and Public Accountability (CGPA), the seminar was held in Peshawar on Thursday.
Hailing the progress made by the K-P RTI Commission, Ali said, “The RTI Commission in K-P has shown tremendous progress in a short span of time by training more than 500 public information officers (PIO) and entertaining around 300 complaints.”
“The Punjab Information Commission faces huge problems including non-availability of proper office and staff,” said Ali. He, however, said they were optimistic about overcoming the problems within a few months.
Also speaking on the occasion, K-P RTI Commissioner Sahibzada Khalid said PIOs must “own the law”. He stressed, “No delay in provision of information under the RTI Act will be tolerated.”
He urged PIOs to comply by what they have learnt during the training sessions organised for them. He also asked them to place signboards outside their offices to facilitate easy access for the public.
RTI Commissioner Professor Kalimullah said frequent postings and transfers of PIOs could create problems not only for the commission but also for the public. He said it would hinder communication and delay the timeframe in which information is provided to those who request it.
“An element of motivation in the shape of certain perks and privileges for PIOs should be ensured for a vibrant RTI regime in the region,” added Kalimullah.
RTI Commissioner Abdul Matin said in his address, “It is not the job of any public body to decide which information can be shared and which is exempted. Only the K-P RTI Commission will take a decision on these matters.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 2nd, 2014.