At a formal ceremony to introduce the Right to Information (RTI) Ordinance, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan clarified he would continue to interfere in the province’s business to ensure the party’s agenda of “change” is implemented.
“I am here, telling my Awami National Party (ANP) friends if they thought I would not interfere further, the real interruption will start now as I have recovered from my illness.”
Imran was responding to criticism levelled against him for his involvement in the provincial government’s affairs.
Using the opportunity to speak at a public platform, Imran went on to condemn the use of the Governor House for one person (the governor), calling it a sign of the “colonial era”.
In the opinion of the PTI chairman, “The sprawling house could be used as a park for women.”
To assure his audience of his complete ‘focus’ on K-P, Imran promised he would rush to Peshawar without any delay to “press Pervez Khattak (K-P chief minister)” on any governance issues.
Touching on the reason behind the inauguration, he said the RTI is part of the PTI’s agenda. “The RTI will force the government to speak the truth and will put pressure on the bureaucracy, ministers and the government.” Such laws can only be implemented by those who do not fear the truth, added Imran.
At the launch, Chief Minister Pervez Khattak said the previous government “dragged its feet over this (RTI) important legislation in fear of retribution.”
“Cowardly, selfish and self-serving people never become leaders. The PTI-led government has implemented the RTI to ensure transparency and better governance.”
In his briefing on the RTI ordinance earlier, K-P Secretary Information Azmat Hanif called its implementation a historical day for K-P. “The law, which meets international best practice, will go a long way in ensuring transparency in all public sector departments,” said Hanif. “We will be pleased with feedback on the RTI as the ordinance will be taken to the assembly to be made an act within 90 days.” In the assembly, it can be thoroughly discussed and suggestion for changes, if any, are welcome, he added.
Coalition on Right to Information Coordinator Zahid Abdullah told The Express Tribune certain points have to be added to the RTI so it has comprehensive coverage and can serve its purpose. The coalition is a platform of 20 civil society organisations working towards improved information access. “Any law is as good as its implementation mechanism,” said Abdullah.
According to Ahmad Bilal Mehboob from the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency, “The RTI will only be helpful when it changes into a public movement – awareness is key for it to become a movement”.
Under the ordinance, ‘information’ means any data related to the constitution, structure and official activities of a public body, giving access to transactions, budgets, expenditures, purchases, contracts, licences, appointments, and salaries, among other things. A ‘K-P Information Commission’ will be constituted to exercise the powers conferred by the ordinance. It will be headed by a chief information commissioner and have two other members. The commission will be vested with the powers of a civil court. This includes, but is not limited to, summoning people to give evidence or produce documents, discovery of documents, requisitioning public records, and compensating applications.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th, 2013.