MEASURING THE IMPLEMENTATION OF ACCESS TO INFORMATION (ATI) LAWS IN PAKISTAN

Together, with the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), GFMD have conducted an assessment of the implementation of Access To Information (ATI) laws (SDG 16.10.2) in Pakistan. The country has committed to submit a Voluntary National Review (VNR) during the High Level Political Forum in July 2019.

A consultative meeting  took place on February 24th, 2019 with six NGOs and UNESCO representatives in order to discuss the state of public access to information in Pakistan.

Prior to the meetings, data on the access to information was gathered and analysed via the FOIAnet-methodology, a CSO-driven research tool.

Data had previously been collected by PPF to support and to facilitate the discussions (based on the FOIAnet methodology). A finalized draft report was issued, with the following main outcomes:

  • The practice of corruption in Pakistan has made institutions relatively inefficient. Freedom of expression and transparency has always been curtailed by governments. In 2002, Pakistan made its first FOI law. Nowadays, Pakistan has five independent Right to Information (RTI) Acts, at the federal level and in its four provinces.
  • The Pakistan Right of Access to Information Bill, 2017 Act gives citizens the right to access information held by public bodies. This legal framework set aims to make the government more accountable regarding corruption and inefficiency. Any Pakistani citizen can make a request for seeking information regarding public offices. The country has taken several important steps towards RTI in the shape of provincial and federal legislation.
  • However, the practical reality of implementation of these RTI laws has still to be realized. The outcomes of the shadow report demonstrate that institutions have not performed their duties regarding the implementation of RTI laws (poor scores for the availability of information; absence of RTI Commission to support the law; lack of answer to RTI requests).

Thanks to these findings, the following recommendations could be highlighted to improve the implementation of the ATI laws in Pakistan:

  • Arrange capacity building session to raise awareness among officials regarding RTI and its benefits (improve performance & transparency as well as building trust of the general public toward institutions).
  • Public institutions should include more detailed information on their website.
  • Appoint an Information Commissioner in all Ministries.
  • Institutions should respect the requirements of the law and respond to RTI requests in a timely manner.