Right to Information Act, 2013


  The Right to Information Act, 2013
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan

On the 9th of January 2014, DELTA, with the collaboration of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), organized a consultation in Peshawar, on the Right to Information legislation newly promulgated in the province through the Right to Information Act 2013, an act touted as an exceptionally strong RTI Act.
However, problems prevail – as citizens remain unsure of their basic rights and its potential implications with regards to promoting democracy, good governance, accountability and transparency in the public sphere – imperative for Pakistan which ranks among some of the highest nations in terms of corruption.

Naazlee Sardar (President, DELTA) began the event with a brief inaugural address where she thanked the participants for attending and emphasized the importance of the Right to Information. She then called upon Ameer Gilani (Consultant, DELTA) to give a presentation on the RTI regional context, a presentation which compared RTI legislation in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal and the USA – giving some perspective regarding strengths and weaknesses, and issues with implementation.

Following this presentation, Riffat Sardar (Legal RTI Expert) gave an in-depth presentation on the RTI Act in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, describing its strengths and weaknesses.

Following the presentations, a panel discussion took place – which featured a diverse panel of RTI experts, political party representatives, academia, media and civil society representatives. This included Ayesha Gulalai (MNA, PTI), Akbar Hayat (MPA, PML-N), Abdul Qadoos (Senior Correspondent, APP), Zahid Abdullah (Program Manager, CPDI), Imtiaz Gilani (Acting chairman, Higher Education Commission), Mudassar Alam, (Manager governance, CRCP), Said Nazeer, member High court Bar Association, Azmat Hanif Orakzai, former Secretary Information, and Col. Khurshid Alam (former DG, National Accountability Bureau).

The panel discussion was moderated by Naazlee Sardar, who asked participants questions on the RTI. Some of the questions on the government’s stance on RTI were answered by Azmat Hanif Orakzai, former Secretary Information.
Salient points emerging from the extensive panel discussion are as follow:

  • The UNDP needs to focus on effective implementation through advocacy campaigns for citizens, as well as by pressurizing the Provincial Government and Political Party representatives to formulate rules and set up a functioning Information Commission, etc.
  • The participants were informed that the remaining two members were nominated already and would soon be notified by the government. However the panelist Mudassar Alam and Zahid Abdullah, members of the Civil Society present at the Consultation raised an objection regarding the exclusiveness of the members of the Information Commission. They demanded that the government include allow civil society to nominate and select members of the Commission to increase inclusiveness of citizens in public affairs.
  • The RTI Act in KPK includes a clause which states that petitioners seeking information for ‘malifide’ reasons may be fined up to 50,000. A term as vague as “malifide” will surely be abused by authorities, making it a law of deterrence. Ayesha Gulalai, an MNA from PTI – committed that this clause will be changed through an amendment to the Act.
  • The moderator raised a point regarding the refusal of government officials to make information regarding the attendance of lawmakers in the National Assembly to be made public. Naazlee Sardar said, considering how they claim per diem which is taxpayers money but instead of attending assembly sessions prefer to appear on talk shows, and then the Speaker of the Assembly refuses to provide data on attendance record, goes against the RTI principle but the PML N Govt insists on keeping the information secret under the Freedom of Information Act at the federal level. Arbab Akbar Hayat from the PML-N stated that it was every citizen’s right to have access to attendance records, in order to hold their elected representatives in check, and that he did not condone the speaker’s act of holding attendance record secret.
  • Amendment in the RTI Act is necessary in order to expressly include the Peshawar High Court in the definition of a public body (currently lacking).

The event was a success, as it sensitized participants on the Right to Information legislation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and empowered them to understand the strength of their new ability to counter corruption in the Province. It also gave participants a chance to engage with their elected representatives, in particular, Ayesha Gulalai from PTI – which happens to be the dominant political party in the Province and the promulgators of the legislation – who also assured amendments to certain questionable clauses within the Act. The former Secretary Information Azmat Hanif Orakzai, answered questions from the participants, providing them assurance that they can access information from the Govt under the RTI Act, as now it is their right to do so, and the govt was compelled to provide information to the citizenry.

Participants from the civil society, media, academia, government functionaries and legal fraternity attended the consultation. Prominent among the participants was Khalid Sahibzada, the newly appointed Information Commissioner and Atif Yousafzai, representative from the Post Conflict Needs Assessment, P & D Dept, that has been awarded a grant by the World Bank, for operationalization of the Information Commission.
Note: The Agenda for the Consultation is attached to this document as an Annexure.

Annexure: Agenda


02:30 pm


Recitation of Holy Quran




Setting the Regional Context:
Mr. Ameer Gilani, Consultant, DELTA


03.00 pm


Setting the Provincial Context: Review and Analysis of RTI Act in KPK
Dr. Riffat Sardar, RTI Legal Expert, DELTA

03.25 pm

Panel Discussion (Moderated by Ms. Naazlee Sardar)

  • Ms. Ayesha Gulalai (MNA, PTI)
  • Mr. Arbab Akbar Hayat (MPA, PML-N)
  • Mr. Abdul Qadoos (Senior Correspondent, APP)
  • Mr. Zahid Abdullah (Program Manager, CPDI)
  • Mr. Imtiaz Gilani (Acting Chairman, HEC)
  • Mr. Mudassar Alam (Manager Governance, CRCP)
  • Mr. KhurshidAlam (Former DG, National Accountability Bureau
  • Dr. Ijaz (International Relations Dept, Peshawar University)
  • Mr. Said Nazeer, member High Court Bar Association,
  • Mr. Azmat Hanif Orakzai, former Secretary Information, GoKPK



04.30 pm


Question and Answer session


04:45 pm


Address by Mr. Zahid Abdullah (Program Manager, CPDI)


05:00 pm


Vote of Thanks by DELTA followed by tea

RTI Consultation Meeting pictures


Newspaper reports


Towards transparency: Govt shortlists two names for RTI commissioner’s post
Published: January 10, 2014


The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government has nominated two individuals for the post of Right to Information (RTI) commissioner.
Sahibzada Muhammad Khalid was appointed the Chief Information Commissioner RTI on December 6 last year and official sources have revealed that the government has short listed two people for the slot of commissioner.
An official said a notification in this regard will be issued soon, adding one of the selected officials is Shahjehan Sayed, a former chairman of the Mass Communication department at the University of Peshawar. The second name was not shared with The Express Tribune. The official confided that the World Bank has provided Rs60 million to the K-P government to help build RTI structure in the province.
Meanwhile, during a conference on RTI on Thursday, participants said corruption in public affairs can be reduced through effective implementation and operationalisation of RTI legislation.

Civil society activists and RTI experts were at a consultation conference organised by Development, Environment, Legal Aid, Technical Support and Advocacy Association (Delta) in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme.
Delta President Naazlee Sardar urged participants to empower themselves and demand their right to information to “foster democracy and ensure accountability and transparency”. She said the K-P government’s newly-promulgated Right to Information Act 2013 is a bold step to allow citizens to monitor the government.
Former secretary information Hanif Orakzai highlighted the government’s efforts in drafting the act, while Dr Riffat Sardar presented an analytical review of it.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf MPA Ayesha Gulalai highlighted the ease of requesting information under the act and the protection it provides to whistleblowers.
Other participants who spoke on the occasion included Pakistan Muslim Leage-Nawaz leader Akbar Hayat, acting Higher Education Commission Chairman Imtiaz Hussain Gilani, former National Accountability Bureau chief Khurshid Alam and RTI chief information commissioner Sahibzada Khalid.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 10th, 2014.


Daily Mashriq
Dated: 10-01-2014



Daily Business Recorder

Dated 12 January 2014




Islamabad, Sunday, 12 January, 2014



Friday, January 17, 2014




Background Note – Operationalizing Under Article 19-A

The Right to Information Act, 2013, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

“Withholding information is the essence of tyranny. Control of the flow of information is the tool of the dictatorship.” ― Bruce Coville

International Scenario
Right to Information (RTI) gives citizens the right to access information that is held under the control of any public authority that benefits from taxpayers’ money. This allows citizens to access public records of government-held information. RTI has been recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and is increasingly being championed as a fundamental human right.

Access to Information is viewed as an instrument for transparency and accountability, integral to good governance and empowering people to meaningfully participate in decision making processes at various levels of government. In 1990, only 13 countries had adopted national laws pertaining to the Right to Information. In comparison, there are currently laws in over 90 nations. Interestingly, some of the highest ranking RTI laws are recently passed laws in developing nations such as India and Mexico.

Transparency International releases The Corruption Perceptions Index annually where nations are scored, based on the levels of corruption prevalent in their public offices. The table below compares the RTI Rating (Center for Law and Democracy) with the Transparency International (TI) rating for 2013. Pakistan, as can be seen, possesses a significantly weak RTI and ranks dismally low on the corruption index. Interestingly, many developing nations with strong RTI laws (India, Liberia, El Salvador, Mexico) remain with low scores on the corruption index.

Country: Top 5

RTI Rating

Corruption Rating

Country: Bottom 5

RTI Rating

Corruption Rating




























Dominican Republic













RTI Rating: Between 1 (Best Score) and 95 (Worst Score)
Corruption Rating: Between 1 (Worst Score) and 100 (Best Score)

National Scenario
In Pakistan, while freedom of access to information was referred to in the 1973 constitution, it was not until the passage of the 18th amendment that the Right to Information was listed as a fundamental right in Article 19-A, which states that “Every citizen shall have the right to have access to information in all matters of public importance subject to regulation and reasonable restrictions imposed by law”

As part of a global ranking of RTI laws by the Centre for Law and Democracy which seeks to assess the strength of the legal framework for RTI laws, Pakistan was ranked 78th out of 95 countries. By comparison, India’s RTI Law was ranked 2nd and Bangladesh’s 17th. This showed the perceived weakness of Pakistan’s RTI laws. However, this ranking didn’t take into consideration the recent passage of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab laws, which are on par with international RTI laws. Right to Information laws in Balochistan and Sindh (passed in 2005 and 2006 respectively) however, remain ambiguous and detrimental to promoting democracy and good governance and require major amendments and extensive revisions.

Despite the PML-N promulgating a fairly strong law, the party’s federal government isn’t prioritizing its implementation. As reported by Umar Cheema from The News, “the National Assembly refused to provide information regarding  the attendance of lawmakers who are seen more on talk shows than in the parliament (as the) Ombudsman declared that attendance is a ‘private record’

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Scenario
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in October 2013 adopted the Right to Information Act, 2013, an RTI law that is ranked among the best laws in the world! As spelled out in its preamble, the law seeks to ensure transparency, reduce corruption, improve governance through greater public participation, and hold elected and public officials accountable. In lieu of this, the Government of KPK has created a separate commission to deal with complaints pertaining to the RTI, and the law ensures the proactive disclosure of information held by public bodies within 10 days of filing a request. The Provincial RTI office is currently in the process of being set up in Peshawar.

Despite the strength of this law, however most Pakistanis are unaware of their inalienable right to accessing information. Forums such as the National Assembly and the Presidency are still using the weak Federal Freedom of Information (FOI) law to block information that the public have a right to know.

With the advent of the robust new RTI law in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and its promised implementation and operationalization by the Pakistan Tehreek-E-Insaaf, it is hoped that citizens have more legal safeguards for accessing public information, and the Government has an obligation to share said information.  The people must have the awareness and the will to exercise their right to information.

Development, Environment, Legal Aid, Technical Support & Advocacy Association (DELTA), is an NGO that aims to improve engagement between citizens and government in order to promote good governance in Pakistan. DELTA has been working since 1995 on human rights and humanitarian assistance programs in development and relief sectors.

In order to map progress and facilitate informed discussion for operationalization of legislation on the Right to Information, DELTA is organizing consultations in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in all four provinces. The Provincial-level consultation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will be conducted at Pearl Continental Hotel, Peshawar and will feature Government Officials, Political Party representatives, civil society stakeholders, media personnel, lawyers, representatives from leading academic institutions, activists and intellectuals to provide a forum for informed discussion on the provincial RTI Law in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The main objectives of this consultation are:

  • To understand the current legislation on the Right to Information Act, 2013 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
  • To examine the status of Implementation of the RTI Law in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, by providing status updates and endeavors by the Department of Information (KPK) towards implementing the RTI Law in the province.
  • To provide a forum for informed discussion on operationalization of the RTI legislation.
  • To seek recommendations to address and overcome challenges in the implementation of the RTI.