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PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has failed to appoint the chief information commissioner to the provincial Right to Information Commission even one and a half months after the post fell vacant due to the retirement of Sahibzada Khalid.

Mr. Khalid, the first CIC, had retired on August 17 after completing his three years tenure.

An official in the know insisted the delay in the appointment of the CIC reflected the waning interest of the government in the cause of the transparency in its affairs.

“The government is no longer enthusiastic about the RTI,” he said.

Official insists govt no more interested in the cause of transparency in its affairs

The official said one of the two information commissioners, Abdul Mateen, would retire on Oct 27, 2016.

However, officials in the information department told Dawn that they had sent three names to Chief Minister Pervez Khattak to pick the next CIC from.

“We sent three names earlier on August 31 to the chief minister,” an official said.

He said among those shortlisted by the establishment department were Azmat Hanif Orakzai, Syed Badshah Bukhari and Shah Sahib.

The official said Mr. Orakzai was a retired bureaucrat currently serving as the chief of the Right to Service Commission (RTS) KP, while Mr. Bukhari, too, was a retired bureaucrat, whose last position was the provincial finance secretary’s.

Shah Sahib is also a retired bureaucrat, who has served as the Fata finance secretary.

The official said Mr. Shah was recently appointed RTS commissioner and therefore, he was unlikely to be considered for this post.

However, another official said the name of another retired bureaucrat Khalid Hussain had also been included in the list.

He said Mr. Hanif was a strong contender for the post, as he was the information secretary when the KP Right to Information Act was being drafted.

Mohammad Anwar, executive director non-governmental Center for Governance and Public Accountability, told Dawn that they had written a letter to Chief Minister Pervez Khattak asking him to set up a bipartisan panel consisting of lawmakers from treasury and opposition benches from provincial assembly to appoint CIC, but the government didn’t even bother to respond.

He said the Right to Information Act 2013 was currently silent about appointment of the CIC and therefore, in case the government didn’t fill the position, it would not be illegal.

Mr. Anwar said the appointment of the first CIC was time bound under the law but there was no provision in the law for the appointment of the next one.

He said an amendment bill providing a timeline for appointment of CIC and commissioners had been pending with the law department for several months.

The draft amendment bill proposes insertion of sub-section (10) in Section 24 providing that the information commission shall initiate a case for filling the expected vacancy due to retirement of an Information Commissioner or CIC, as the case may be, 120 days before the due date and send it to the government which shall fill the vacancy within 30 days of occurrence of this slot.

“If the government desires, it could kill the law without doing anything,” Mr. Anwar said, adding that appointment of the new CIC would have great bearing on the functioning of the commission.

He said if the government appointed some blue-eyed person, it would not bode well with the commission’s future.

The CGPA chief said the law was a feather in the cap of the PTI government but the government showed weakness in its implementation.

“The KP Assembly was exempted from the ambit of the law some times after it was passed but it was reversed over much public criticism,” he said.

Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2016