ISLAMABAD: Centre for Peace & Development Initiatives (CPDI) organized an online consultative session with the Balochistan stakeholders regarding the Balochistan Freedom of Information Act 2005. The consultative session is a part of the series of consultative sessions organized for reforms in the Balochistan Freedom of Information Act 2005. The participants of the session included Behram Lehri (Social Activist), Syed Ali Shah (Bureau Chief DAWN NEWS), Nasar Ullah Zayrai (MPA, Pashtukhwa Mili Awami Party) and Zahid Abdullah (Federal Information Commissioner). These sessions are designed online due to the pandemic COVID-19. The participants unanimously agreed that the Balochistan FOI Act 2005 is not consistent with the regional and national best practices and needs amendment. It was further said that Balochistan Freedom of Information Act 2005 is not effective and does not provide fullest possible access to the information held by public bodies. Currently, Balochistan has the weakest RTI law in Pakistan. FOIA 2005 has many flaws like the scope is restrictive, process of getting information under RTI is neither free nor easy, list of exempted information is longer than the disclose able information. Most importantly, citizens of Balochistan do not have an independent appellate forum like Punjab Information Commission and KP RTI Commission.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, Sindh and federal government has repealed weak RTI laws and replaced it with progressive RTI laws. The Government of Balochistan should now also follow suit and start legislation for an effective right to information law to bring transparency and openness in government matters, they said.
It is further said that the draft bill for amending the Balochistan FOI Act 2005 has been prepared but until now no progress has been made on it, rather it’s not even presented in the Balochistan Assembly. The participants further said that if the citizens of all the other three provinces have access to the right to information, then why the Balochistan citizens are kept deprived of this fundamental human right. According to Article 19-A of the 1973 constitution of Pakistan, every citizen has the right to information while the situation in Balochistan is on the contrary.
Participants showed keen interest in raising the issue at every forum and demanded the provincial government of Balochistan to look into the matter with enthusiasm and bring Balochistan at par with the rest of the provinces in the sphere of Right to Information laws.
Published in The Balochistan Point on July 8, 2020