PESHAWAR: Rejecting amendments made to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Right to Information (RTI) Act 2013, the civil society’s Coalition on RTI has demanded restoration of the status of information commission and ending exemption given to the KP Assembly and Peshawar High Court.

Speaking at a press conference at Peshawar Press Club on Friday, Zahid Abdullah, coordinator of Coalition on RTI — a network of 30 civil society organisations working to promote citizens’ right to information in the country — said that the amendments in this law by the provincial assembly on June 23, 2015 had significantly diluted it.

“The Coalition on Right to Information had appreciated it at every form as it met standards of right to information legislation, but the changes have reduced its utility,” he said.

Mohammad Anwar, executive director of the Center for Governance and Public Accountability, lamented that without any debate and seeking input from the CSOs, the KP Assembly exempted itself from the purview of RTI. He said that making district courts the forum of appeal against the decisions of KP Information Commission had lowered its status.

Institute of Research, Advocacy and Development’s founding director Aftab Alam said that the coalition had been demanding inclusion of the Peshawar High Court in the purview of KP RTI Act 2013. He said that instead the KP Assembly also exempted itself from the purview of the law.

He asked why any public body whether it was the high court or Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly should be exempted from the right to information law. He said that the PHC chief justice was not only the top judge of the province, but he also performed executive functions with regard to procurement and recruitment for the PHC. Therefore, it is a matter of principle that the citizens should have the right to know that their resources are put to use by PHC, said Mr Alam.

The Coalition on RTI urged the provincial government to withdraw amendments made to the RTI Act 2013 and bring the KP Assembly and PHC within the ambit of the law.

It also demanded making the PHC the forum for appeal against the decisions of KP Information Commission and to ensure that the commission consisted of the chief information commissioner and two information commissioners taken from bureaucracy, judiciary and civil society.

Published in Dawn, July 25th, 2015

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