WHAT IS RTI?
As the name it partially explains; RTI is ‘Right to Know’. Also known as Freedom of Information (FOI) law, it allows access by the general public to data held by national governments under a prescribed process. Governments are typically bound by a duty to publish and promote openness.
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION LAWS GLOBALLY
Over 100 countries around the world have implemented some form of freedom of information legislation. Sweden’s Freedom of the Press Act of 1766 is the oldest in the world. Most freedom of information laws exclude the private sector from their jurisdiction thus information held by the private sector cannot be accessed as a legal right. Other countries are working towards introducing such laws, and many regions of countries with national legislation have local laws
2002 FREEDOM OF INFORMATION (FOI) ORDINANCE IN PAKISTAN
Pakistani constitution’s Article 19-A says, every citizen shall have the right to information in matters of public importance subject to regulations and restrictions imposed by the law. The first freedom of information (FOI) law in Pakistan came in the form of an ordinance promulgated by the then military President Pervez Musharraf. The law empowered citizens to seek information from government departments under a set procedure. FOI 2002 is still applicable at the federal level though legislators are working on a new and more effective ‘RTI laws’ to replace the FOI ordinance.
2013 RTI LAW IN KP
In 2013, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa legislative assembly enacted the RTI law which according to observers has proven to be the most effective and robust law. A special commission established under this law has very actively been pursuing cases of public complaints against governments and has been most successful in checking malpractices.
NOTE: FATA and PATA are not covered by KP’s RTI law. Though, residents of these two regions have equal rights to obtain information under FOI ordinance, and can lodge a complaint with federal ombudsman in case of non-compliance by a body.
2013 RTI AW IN PUNJAB
Punjab also passed the RTI law in 2013 which has proven to be no less effective than KP’s law. Punjab’s RTI commission has also been quick to act to ensure the law is followed by government bodies in letter and spirit. This has encouraged more and more citizens, especially journalists to seek information from government departments.
2017 RTI IN SINDH
Sindh is becoming the third province to practice RTI law after KP and Punjab, where the assembly has already passed the bill and the governor has signed it. The law is expected to significantly contribute towards ensuring that citizens completely enjoy their fundamental constitution right to know.
RTI IN IN BALUCHISTAN STILL IN THE PIPELINE
Baluchistan unfortunately still does not have an RTI and is still depending on the 2002 FOI legislation. But the law makers and legal experts are working to come up with RTI law. At present provincial ombudsman is acting as RTI commissioner.