Report: Right to Information Consultation Event in Lahore


Punjab Transparancy and Right to Information Act 2013


On the 11th of February 2014, DELTA, with the collaboration of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), organized a consultation in Lahore, on the Right to Information legislation newly promulgated in the province through the Punjab Transparency and 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 short introduction of DELTA and she thanked the participants for attending and emphasized the importance of the Right to Information. Hashim Zaidi, UNDP, in his inaugural address explained that UNDP was working for promoting good governance and this endeavour was part of that program. Dr. Riffat Sardar (Legal Expert, DELTA) speaking on the RTI regional context, made a presentation which provided analytical legal review of Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013– giving thorough analyses regarding strengths and weaknesses, and issues with implementation.

Mr. Tahseen ullah, SAPPk, spoke on challenges facing implementation of RTI. Rahat Babar of CPDI also spoke on challenges facing implementation and that the law needed much improvement. Mr. Shafiq Butt, Lok sujag presented a case study and gave factual data on RTI complaints which has been made over this time period. He said 50 Federal, 77 provincial, 127 local cases for information were requested, 122 letters were written to public departments and 28 to ombudsman offices.
Mr. Mohsin Abbas, Director, Law Department stated that we have a very strong law and defended it passionately. He said the citizens should be educated to use this law. He said the law is self executory and that even before the formulation of rules under the law, the Act was ready and as good as implementable immediately.
Hussain Naqi, HRCP, and other speakers spoke on our devastating culture of hiding Information and tendency not to disclose any sort of information even in our workplace. They recommended that the solution of people’s problems lies within this law and mentioned that media should work more fluently on this law.
Mr. Salman Abid, Regional Head, SPO presented very fruitful recommendations for the operationalization of RTI which are following:

  • Institutional mechanism is important to be developed. Civil societies and Government should work in collaboration for the better understanding of RTI law. Both can facilitate each other to help people regarding RTI.
  • RTI should be translated into local languages because a very high number of common people do not understand this language.
  • In our society processes are very slow but people here want immediate result. Through awareness NGOs can facilitate people to access information under RTI.
  • Street theatre is a good tool for inculcating awareness.
  • Civil society will have to remind Government that transparency is important and that it must work for overcoming challenges in implementation of RTI law.

Moving forward, Mr. Khalil Tahir Sindhu Minister of Human Rights, GoP , graced the occasion as chief guest. He said that information was the need of the day, thus it was imperative that information was provided to citizenry. He said how corruption can be eliminated from the society and good governance can be brought in by the use of RTI. He committed that GOP will work properly on implementation of RTI. He further mentioned that GOP has taken the first step in enacting a robust law on RTI but now onwards their workings would accelerate and every possible move will be made in order to operationalize RTI in Punjab.
The event was a success, as it sensitized participants on the Right to Information legislation in Punjab, and empowered them to understand the strength of their new ability to counter corruption in the Province. It also gave participants a chance to ask questions and clear their queries. Mr. Mohsin Abbas, Director Law department answered questions from the participants, providing them assurance that they can access information from the Government under the RTI Act, as now it is their right to do so, and the government is compelled to provide information to the citizenry.

Note: The Agenda for the Consultation is attached to this document as an Annexure.


Annexure: Agenda                                          PROGRAM


02:30 pm


Recitation of holy Quran


02:35 pm


Inaugural address by Hashim Zaidi, UNDP


02:50 pm


Review and Analysis of Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013  …………………….Dr. Riffat Sardar, RTI Legal Expert, DELTA

03:10 pm

Government’s Efforts for Operationalizing the Sunshine Laws …….Mr. Mohsin Abbas, Director, Law Department, GoP

03:25 pm

Case Study : Citizens Accessing Information in Sahiwal…Mr. Shafiq Butt, PM, Sahiwal, Lok Sujag

03:40 pm

Information and Accountability  A South Punjab case study under Awaaz Program…by Mr. Tahseen Ullah, SapPK

04:00 pm

Implementation Challenges for Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013: Mr. Rahat Babar, CPDI

04:15 pm Question and Answer session
04:25 pm RTI and Citizenry….by Syed Sajjad Akbar Kazmi , President, Punjab Union of Teachers
04.35 pm Role of Civil Societies in (RTI), Issues and challenges in its implementation by Mr. Salman Abid, Regional Head, SPO
04.45 pm Access to Information by citizens under  Right To Information by: Hussain Naqi, Coordinator HRCP

05:00 pm


Access to Information for media under  Right To Information by: Mr. Aamir Sohail, President Union of Journalists

05:45 pm

Address by Chief Guest Mr. Khalil Tahir Sindhu, Minister of Human Rights, GoP

06.00 pm

Conclusion and Vote of Thanks by Naazlee Sardar, President, DELTA

Moderator: Mr. Iftikhar Mubarik, Child Rights Movement, Member


RTI Consultation Meeting pictures



The news


Frontier post


Express Tribune

Dated 12-2-2014



Daily Express

Dated: 12-2-2014



Dunya news




Daily Jurrat



Media today International


Daily Abbtak Lahore

February 14, 2014


Background Note – Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act, 2013

“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 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 95 nations. Interestingly, some of the highest ranking RTI laws are enacted in developing nations such as India and Mexico.
Transparency International releases The Corruption Perceptions Index every year where nations are given scores between 0 (Most Corrupt) and 100 (Least Corrupt). 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 10

RTI Rating

TI Rating

Country: Bottom 10

RTI Rating

TI Rating

























El Salvador

































Dominican Republic









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 did not take into consideration the recent passage of the KPK and Punjab laws, which are progressive RTI laws. The new Federal Right to Information Bill, 2013, to be tabled in the Senate shortly, is a toothless law that is ranked at an abysmal 83rd out of 95. Similarly Freedom of Information (RTI) laws in Balochistan and Sindh (passed in 2005 and 2006 respectively), remain equally ambiguous and detrimental to promoting democracy and good governance and require major amendments.

Punjab Scenario
The Government of Punjab in 2013 enacted the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act, 2013 – which allows citizens access to information held by public bodies. 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. There is no fee for filing an information request, and the time limit for providing the requested information is 14 working days, extendable to a further 14 working days. The law also includes a penalty for officials that deliberately delay or deny access to information, a fine which can go up to Rs.50,000. Furthermore, it requires public bodies to publish annual reports of their activities and make them available, though it does not make it binding on public bodies to submit these reports to the Punjab Assembly or Punjab Information Commission.

The Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act, 2013 is a strong law, giving citizens in the province, for the first time in its history, the right to demand and access information. However, the real task has only just begun, considering how most Pakistanis are unaware of their basic, inalienable rights to accessing information. Also the challenge of effectively implementing this law remains.

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 RTI, DELTA in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme, is conducting consultations in all four provincial capitals on following dates and venues:
Peshawar PC Hotel on 9/1/2014,                    Punjab Avari Hotel on 11/2/2014
Quetta Serena Hotel on 17/2/2014                 Karachi Mariott Hotel on 20/2/2014