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Study Reveals Gaps in Implementation of Access to Information Act in Pakistan

Overall, the study highlighted significant regional disparities in the implementation of the Access to Information Act, underscoring the need for improved transparency and accountability across all provinces.
by TNN Editor - 21 May, 2024 876
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The Center for Governance and Public Accountability (CGPA), a non-governmental organization, conducted a comparative study to examine the implementation and enforcement of the Access to Information Act in Pakistan. 

The findings were launched during a ceremony held at a local hotel in Peshawar. The event saw participation from senior officials of the Pakistan Information Commission Islamabad and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Commission, former commissioners, civil society representatives, journalists, lawyers, and students.

The CGPA survey aimed to assess how well the Access to Information Act is being implemented across the country. To conduct this review, CGPA submitted 127 information requests to various institutions under the Access to Information Act across the four provinces and the federal government. The results revealed significant disparities in compliance:

  • The federal government provided timely information in 72% of the requests.
  • Khyber Pakhtunkhwa ranked second, responding to 45% of requests.
  • Punjab followed with a 33% response rate.
  • Sindh provided information in 24% of cases.
  • Balochistan ranked last with a mere 3.7% response rate.

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Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Commission Secretary Anisur Rahman raised concerns about the sampling methodology of the study. He argued that identical requests should have been submitted to specific institutions across all provinces to ensure comparability, as the nature of information varies by institution.

Responding to journalists' inquiries, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Commission Deputy Registrar Nazim Shahab Qamar emphasized that the performance of the Information Commission should be evaluated comprehensively. He suggested that performance metrics should include not only the handling of complaints but also the review of applications, awareness programs, proactive disclosures, and overall complaint management.

Syed Saadat Jahan spoke about efforts to raise awareness regarding the Right to Information (RTI). He mentioned that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Commission has been organizing awareness programs on radio and television, as well as educational institutions. Additionally, efforts are being made to reach a broader audience through social media platforms.

Overall, the study highlighted significant regional disparities in the implementation of the Access to Information Act, underscoring the need for improved transparency and accountability across all provinces.