Peshawar: December 4th 2014: Article 19-A of the constitution of Pakistan provides for citizens’ right to access information held by public bodies. This constitutional right of citizens of PATA is being violated by not extending KP RTI law to PATA. Centre for Governance and Public Accountability (CGPA) has demanded extension of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Right to Information (RTI) Act 2013 to Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA) here on Wednesday. The law has been enacted in October 2013. After more than one year of its enactment, the law is still not applicable to PATA.
Citizens of PATA have no legal means to access information held by public entities in their respective districts. While citizens of the rest of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province have been provided with right to information, there is a sense of deprivation in PATA by not extending KP RTI law.
The members of provincial assembly from PATA do sit in provincial assembly and participate in legislation. But Article 247 of constitution of Pakistan restricts their representation. The laws passed by KP provincial assembly are not directly applicable to PATA. As per Article 246 of constitution of Pakistan, tribal areas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province includes Swat, Dir Upper, Dir Lower and Chitral districts, tribal area in Kohistan district, and Malakand protected area. CGPA demanded amending Article 247 to remove such barriers in citizens’ political representation so all laws enacted by KP provincial assembly can be directly applicable to PATA.
CGPA also demanded notification of rules of business under KP RTI law for its full operationalization. The rules, which should have been framed immediately after its enactment, are still awaited due to bureaucratic hurdles.
CGPA termed enactment of the RTI law as a great step forward for improving democratic principle and strengthening state institutions. However, those who were beneficiaries of culture of secrecy are proving to be the main hurdles in the smooth implementation of the law. CGPA urged civil society and media to be vigilant of such forces and raise awareness on KP RTI law.
CGPA hailed KP RTI Commission for being proactive in implementation of KP RTI law. Citing the progress, CGPA representatives told that 233 citizens have filed complaints with the commission so far, when public bodies denied them information. 135 cases have been resolved while 98 cases are yet to be decided. CGPA urged KP RTI Commission to ensure proactive disclosure by public bodies as per provision of the law. CGPA also urged KP MPAs to amend KP RTI law for including Peshawar High Court in the scope of the law.