Right to Information

RTI Irks: Everybody accepts to know is your right, but nobody is ready to deliver that right

Islamabad: The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Information Commission (KPIC) claims of resolving 89 per cent complaints, it received against public bodies under the KP Right to Information Act, 2013 while 11 per cent are in process.

According to the data available on the Commission website, the Commission received a total of 8,026 complaints since its establishment; of which 7,171 complaints have been resolved and the remaining 855 complaints are in process.

On the other hand, citizens, who are active in using the right to information law to collect information from public bodies, seemed annoyed by the unusual delay in the resolution of their complaints lying pending with the Commission.

The citizens have also said that the Commission has been ‘politicised and pursues complaints of some selected persons’, adding that the rest of the complaints were pending since long.

While talking to The Reportersrights activist from Mardan Muhammad Naeem said that the situation was not as disappointing as it is for the last one-and-a-half-years.

“I am not the only person who is irked by alleged politicising in the commission but there are many of my colleagues as well, ” Naeem claimed.

According to Naeem, he has been using the right to information law for information gathering from different public bodies since 2015 and so far, he has filed more than 100 RTIs.

Naeem said that the right to information law was playing an active role in bringing improvement in the governance system in the province, but the situation has changed now.

Talking about one of his pending complaints with the Commission, Naeem said that he had filed an information request to Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan on October 3, 2019 to get some information from its record.

After the concerned PIO’s failure to share the information, he approached the commission and a notice was issued to AWKU Mardan registrar on November 1, 2019. Over one year has passed now but yet his complaint in process, Naeem deplored. He said that almost all provincial departments hold records, adding that, despite the commission, it could not ensure provision of information under the right to information law.

He has been using his personal contacts with public bodies’ officials to get information under the RTI law; otherwise there is no concept of entertaining information application, said local journalist Hamd Nawaz while sharing his experience of filing RTI to public bodies.

“I personally visit departments along with written information requests under the right to information law, otherwise there is no concept of entertaining such applications,” added Hamd Nawaz. Whenever he made a request under the RTI law, his application was never entertained, Nawaz deplored added.

Sharing his experience with the Commission, Hamd said that every person at the Commission will give you a different excuse when you complain for delay in resolving complaints.

KPIC commissioner Riaz Khan Daudzai while denying citizens irks about the Commission’s alleged politicising said that the Commission can only make requests to departments for information which it is being proactively done.

He said the commission doesn’t recognize any individual or public body, but goes only by the law.

The Commission gives a timeline for information sharing to departments as prescribed in the law and if they didn’t comply with the commission orders what the commission can do, he questioned. The commission has no police force to implement its decisions by power, Daudzai maintained.

Daudzai also argued citizen irks against pending cases and said that there was no case with the commission which is pending from months or years. He said if a citizen made a request for the information which is not available with the department then how the Commission can ensure information sharing or resolve the case, he asked.

The commission closed the case when a department explained its inability to provide information which is not available in its record, he said.

The commission has issued seven legal orders against public bodies for not complying with the Commission notice; of which three orders were against journalists bodies, Daudzai informed.

Nadeem Tanoli, a regular user of the law from Islamabad, said the commission sometimes closed the case after receiving information but it didn’t share that information with the appellant, which is a great source of irk for the appellant.

However, he was of the view that the Commission only cannot be held responsible for delay in getting information, adding that the colonial mind-set approach of the managers operating the system and non-availability of record are other factors.

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