PESHAWAR: ANP central general secretary Mian Iftikhar Hussain has criticised the provincial government’s move to exclude the provincial assembly from the ambit of Right to Information (RTI) Act.

Mr Hussain, who was information minister during the previous ANP government, said that the move amounted to treating the provincial assembly as a ‘sacred cow’.

“The speaker of the provincial assembly has immense discretionary powers to give jobs to anyone he likes in violation of all rules, ethics and law. He can serve show-cause notices, conduct inquiries and expel people from jobs without being accountable,” the ANP leader said.

He said that the entire business of the province was channeled through the provincial assembly and if it was not held accountable, it would render the RTI law meaningless.

Mr Hussain said that any query or request for information under RTI law could be easily evaded now with the departments saying that the matter was raised on the floor of the provincial assembly and the request shelved because according to assembly rules, it could not be made public.

“The move gives all government departments a formal cover to hide behind,” said Mr Hussain.

The former information minister said work on the RTI Act was initiated during the ANP government and even it was approved by the then cabinet. However, the Act was passed by the PTI government, which had little to do with it as 99 per cent of work was done by the ANP government, he added.

“Now the cat is out of the bag. If it was left to PTI, they would never have included the provincial assembly in its ambit. Exempting the provincial assembly means exempting the entire government machinery,” said Mr Hussain.

The ANP leader said that RTI law in Punjab not only covered the Punjab Assembly but also the high court. “Those, who raise slogans of transparency and ending corruption, are going against the public interest through restricting the ambit of the right to information,” he said.

All matters of public interest should be transparent and those representing the people, whether inside or outside the assembly, should be accountable to them, Mr Hussain said.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2015

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