Sindh information law least effective among all provinces
ISLAMABAD: Despite urging the federal government to introduce the Right to Information (RTI) law, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is unable to enact the same legislation in its own ruled Sindh province, which is currently being deemed as the least transparent federating unit.
The provincial government claims that it has already drafted the RTI law but it has yet to table the bill in the assembly or make public a copy of the bill for feedback.
Currently, an outdated Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2006 is in place in the province but according to Director Information of Sindh government, the FOI law can’t be implemented as required rules have not been formed in the face of criticism from civil society and other stakeholders.
Sindh is the only administrative unit in the Federation that has yet to notify the rules of implementation and schedule of costs, which hampers implementation of the province’s FOI law. This is despite the fact that the province passed its FOI law over nine years ago.
“Due to non-acceptance of law from civil society and other stakeholders since its passage in 2006 from Sindh Assembly and no formation of required rules, any sort of activities related to the RTI have not taken place,” said a letter No DI(Press)/2015 by Director Information Sindh Mehnaz Hasan.
“Now Sindh has amended the RTI of 2006 and re-draft Act 2015 is in process of vetting in Law Department,” says the letter dated 13 October, 2015 inresponse to an information request by Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (Pildat).
In his statement on the eve of the Press Freedom Day in May, the PPP chief Asif Ali Zardari had called for an early adoption of the Right to Information law in the Centre.
“The fact that the RTI legislation has been finalised by the Senate committee almost a year ago but the government, despite promises, has not tabled it in the Parliament, raises serious questions about the intent and motives of the government,” Zardari had said.
But little progress has been made on improving RTI legislation in Sindh which is governed by the PPP government, according to details shared by Pildat, a non-partisan think tank that has been working on a comparative scorecard on implementation of Pakistan’s different FOI/RTI laws, due for release today (Tuesday).
“In a meeting in August 2015 with the then information minister, Nisar Ahmed Khuhro, we were told that the new RTI law was under consideration of the Sindh cabinet and would soon be tabled in the Assembly,” said Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, president Pildat.
Nisar Khuhro reiterated this stance while speaking at a briefing session organised by Pildat for media persons and Sindh MPAs on November 5. He also claimed that the Sindh’s draft RTI law was even more progressive than acclaimed RTI laws in effect within Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab.
However, in spite of these claims, the Sindh government has done little to ensure its existing FOI law is being properly implemented.
“The low priority the Sindh government attaches to the implementation of FOI is one of the main reasons the province is ranked last in our RTI scorecard in comparison to other provinces,” said Ahmed Bilal.