Punjab right to information act still in stillborn state
LAHORE: The Punjab government has not yet established a Punjab Information Commission (PIC) or Press Information Officers (PIO) in any public body, even as these are mandatory under the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013 (RTI), The Express Tribune has learnt.
The Punjab Assembly passed the RTI Act 2013 in December last year, with a majority, and signed by Punjab Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar.
Under the RTI Act 2013, the Punjab government has to draft rules and regulations on how to appoint or constitute the PIC; it is mandatory to appoint PIOs in all public bodies and entities within 60 days after the RTI act came into effect in the province. However, 52 days after the Act was enforced, the Punjab government has yet to draft any rules or regulations, constitute a PIC or designate PIOs – a clear violation of the Act and an impingement on the right to information.
According to clause 5 of the Act, the government shall establish a PIC which shall consist of not more than three Information Commissioners (IC). An IC shall be a person who has been or is qualified to be a judge of the High Court, a person who is or has been in the service of Pakistan in basic scale 21 or its equivalent and a person from civil society having a degree based on sixteen years of education from a recognized institution and experience of not less than fifteen years in the field of mass communication, academia or right to information.
Clause 7 of the Act states that a public body shall, within sixty days of the commencement of the Act, designate and notify as many officers as public information officers in all administrative units or offices as may be necessary.
Sources in the Punjab government said the government is reluctant to draft rules and regulations under the RTI Act 2013 and wanted the PIC to deal with the issue instead. The government has approached Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif several times to finalize names for the PIC but he is reluctant to give a final nod, sources added.
The chief minister currently has one Press Secretary and two government representatives as Secretary to Information, one of whom is a member of the Public Administrative Service office and the second is Director General Punjab Relation, who deals with various issues including the right to information.
Punjab Secretary Information Momin Agha, while talking with The Express Tribune, said that the government has sent a summary of names for the PIC to the chief minister for approval. He said the summary consists of two panels, each with three names suggested for information commissioners. Regarding the formulation of rules and regulations, Agha said that while the government will play a role, a majority of the regulations will be prescribed by the PIC.