FAFEN Urges Federal Govt to Enact Right to Information Law

ISLAMABAD, November 5, 2015: Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) has called upon the Federal Government to extend to the citizens the constitutional Right to Information as guaranteed by Article 19-A through appropriate legislation, says a statement issued on Thursday.

Article 19-A of the Constitution states that “Every citizen shall have the right to have access to information in all matters of public importance subject to regulation and reasonable restrictions imposed by law”.

Although Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had committed to the citizens in its election manifesto that it would bring Right to Information laws based on best international practices, the Federal Government has yet to replace the Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002 with Right to Information laws that fully cover the rights and entitlements of citizens to access information from ministries, departments and autonomous bodies under the Federal Government. The existing ordinance is weak and does not provide adequate guarantees to citizens to access any public information. It does not also include penalties for officials denying access to public information to citizens.

According to FAFEN observation, the Senate Standing Committee on Information Broadcasting and National Heritage has prepared a Draft Right to Information Law in 2014, but it is yet to be introduced in the House.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly is the first to take lead in promulgating the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Right to Information Ordinance, 2013 on August 18, 2013, which was later passed by the House on October 31, 2013. The PML-N also introduced an effective Right to Information Act in Punjab and has formed a powerful Right to Information Commission. These provincial laws have improved institutional transparency, strengthened checks on official decisions and actions, reduced financial corruption, minimized misuse of official authority and improved quality and delivery of public services.

An international organization, Center for Law and Democracy (CLD), comparatively assessed the strength of legal frameworks for the Right to Information from around the world against 61 Indicators. As per the CLD ranking, Pakistan is listed on 84th number among the 102 countries with a score of 66 out of 150, whereas India has been listed on number 3 with the score of 128 out of 150.