NGO exposes farce of freedom of information law
ISLAMABAD: Right of access to information is a farce in Pakistan and a non-governmental organisation (NGO) has exposed the futility of the law proving that government departments are adamantly refusing to share information with the public.
The NGO — Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) — conducted a nationwide survey to study the effectiveness of the laws pertaining to access to information but ended up finding that out of 54 departments approached, only two departments provided the required information.
The other 25 departments also responded positively but only after the applicant had to seek the intervention of the federal or provincial ombudsman.Owing to the ineffectiveness of the relevant laws, the CPDI demanded of the federal and provincial governments to repeal the existing information laws and enact new ones with strong and effective implementation mechanisms so that the constitutional right to information of the citizens could be ensured.
According to a CDPI press release, secrecy is a norm while provision of information to citizens is an exception as government officials do not provide information to the citizens when it is requested under the laws of the land.
The CPDI conducted a nationwide research study to determine responsiveness of public bodies to information requests filed under the right to information laws of the country. Government departments were requested to provide copies of the contracts of the development schemes and projects carried out in financial year 2010-11 along with the details about the utilisation of the development funds.
A total of 54 information requests were submitted to federal, provincial and district government departments in the 1st quarter of 2012 under Article 19-A of the Constitution, Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002 and Section 137 of Local Government Ordinance 2001.
Only two departments provided the requested information whereas 25 information requests yielded positive results only after the intervention of the office of the respective Ombudsman. A total of 27 information requests did not yield any result.
Provincial Ombudsman in KP proved to be most effective as information was provided in case of 16 out of total 22 information requests after complaint was lodged with the KP Ombudsman. Intervention of Punjab Ombudsman proved to be helpful only in 2 out of total 9 complaints, Sindh Ombudsman proved to be helpful in case of 4 complaints out of 10 whereas Balochistan Ombudsman proved to be least effective as 3 complaints are still pending with the office of Ombudsman.Intervention of Federal Ombudsman proved to be helpful only in 2 out of 5 complaints lodged with the office of Ombudsman against federal government departments.