freedom of information act pakistan
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ORDINANCE
Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002
November 25, 2012
The Freedom of Information Ordinance was promulgated by former President, Pervez Musharraf, in October 2002. Over 90 countries around the world have implemented the law. The law is meant to eliminate corruption, establish transparency, accountability and good governance, through the enforcement of the rule of law.
It enables citizens to ask for information as their right, just as every citizen has the right to freedom of speech and expression and is meant to make the Government more effective in delivering social and economic public services, which require constant monitoring and attention.
Under the FoI law, any citizen can seek any information or record from any public body, except for information categorized by law as exempt from disclosure. The law also provides a grievance redressal mechanism for those who have been denied information:
‘In case the designated officer of a public body fails to provide the requested information/record within 21 days. The requester may, in terms of Section 19 of the Ordinance, file a complaint with the head of the public body, who shall dispose of the complaint within 30 days of its receipt’.
‘In case the competent authority fails to redress the grievance of the requester within 30 days of the filing of complaint or refuses to provide him/her the requested information within time, the requester may file a complaint with the Wafaqi Mohtasib.
To sensitize this issue, Shehri, the NGO for a better life, had organized a workshop recently and informed the participants as how it has used the FoI as an effective tool to obtain information from stubborn and none cooperative government departments.
This information enabled them to file various petitions against illegal buildings and land conversions in the Supreme Court and the Sindh High Court. Details of the Act are available on the GoP web site:
Shehri also gave a detailed presentation on how citizens can demand information from the various departments and offered to assist them in this matter, but unfortunately, the procedure is very cumbersome and requires a lot of patience and determination.
In contrast, the Indian Right to Information (RTI), is much more comprehensive and powerful and is rated as one of the best RTI laws in the world. It came into force on 12 October 2005, and states: ‘Whereas the Constitution of India has established democratic Republic; and whereas democracy requires an informed citizenry and transparency of information which are vital to its functioning and also to contain corruption and to hold Governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed’. (http://righttoinformation.gov.in/).
Through the above site, an ordinary citizen can easily track the progress of his or her individual complain, just like the tracking facility being provided by TCS to its consumers, for tracing their individual documents.
The RTI law has become a great tool for the citizens of India, to strengthen democracy and good governance and as an instrument to demand their ‘right to information’ and thus hold the government accountable.
At the same time, the citizens of India take an active part in holding their government accountable and have taken full advantage of their RTI law and this has made the government of India fully answerable to them.
The RTI law, combined with the Indian Bureau of Investigation, an autonomous, active and committed organization, Judicial Activism and concerned citizens, have collectively put the Indian government, parliamentarians, government officials and the business community, under the microscope.
Unfortunately, in Pakistan, we lack all three and the citizens are either not aware or bothered to use The Freedom of Information Ordinance to their advantage, as many of the problems that we face are linked to lack of access to information and knowledge of the decision-making processes in government.
Keeping this in mind, we had decided to use the Freedom to Information Act to extract a copy of the original Privatization Agreement and subsequent amendments, between NEPRA, KESC and the Abraaj Group.
We had addressed letters to Chairman, NEPRA and MD, PPIB, who has admitted that the Rental Power Plants, with higher tariffs, are inefficient and had asked them to provide us copies of evaluation reports prepared in respect of such RPPs, the tariff petition filed with NEPRA by them and copies of the Agreements concluded with these projects.
We had also demanded NEPRA to provide us the copies of the terms of contract between the importers of the RPPs, who according to reports, had been given ‘extraordinary facilities’ to import these second hand plants, including 17% advance payments and high electric tariffs. But as per practice, all these departments have been stonewalling us and refusing to provide us the necessary information.
However, the media has been busy in ‘EXPOSING’ the corruption and the misuse and abuse of our trust by army generals and parliamentarians and exposing the em-bezzlement of funds. This has also raised many questions relating to the ‘Rental Power Plants and other projects, for which they have been told to ‘SHUT UP’.
According to inside information, the power crisis had been ‘engineered’ by vested interests, to destabilize and embarrass the government, facilitate KESC and to promote these RPPs.
How much of all these accusations and counter allegations are myth or reality, only time will tell, but for the record, KESC load shedding in Defence and Clifton has come to an abrupt, but welcome end, as if a magician has waved his Magic Wand and sprinkled red-hot chili peppers on the management of KESC.
Meanwhile, we have again requested the Privatization Commission of Pakistan to provide us a copy of KESC’s Privatization Agreement, which under the FoI Ordinance Law, is a public document and our constitutional right.
But then, in this land of the Pak and the Pure, constitutional rights and respect for the law are not the done thing and the chances are that our request will continue to be stonewalled and the scammers and the con artists will continue to rip us off and get away with it.
The million dollar question is, will we, the citizens be able to elect a party in the coming elections, which hopefully will be free and fair, that is capable of enforcing the rule of law and establish accountability without fear or favor and rid us of the corrupt and the dishonest?
And if not, then we will indeed have to say, ‘Pakistan ka Khudahafiz’, the phrase that Gen. Musharraf had used in his last farewell speech to the nation. -(email: email@example.com).
- August 16, 2009
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION RULES 2004
GOVERNMENT OF PAKISTAN
(NATIONAL DOCUMENTATION CENTRE)
Islamabad, the 18th June, 2004
S.R.O. 514(1)/2004.- In exercise of the powers conferred by section 25 of the Freedom of Information Ordinance, 2002 (Ordinance No.XCVI of 2002), the Federal Government is pleased to make the following rules, namely:
THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION RULES, 2004
- Short title, application and commencement.- (1) These rules may be called the Freedom of Information Rules, 2004.
- They shall apply to public bodies.
- They shall come into force at once.
- Definitions.- In these Rules, unless there is anything repugnant in the subject or context,-
- “Ordinance” means the Freedom of Information Ordinance, 2002 (XCVI of 2002); and
- all other words and expression used, but not defined herein, shall have the same meanings as are assigned to them in the Ordinance.
- Designated official.- (1) The Head of every public body shall designate an official for a public body under his administrative control for the purpose of providing duly attested photocopy of the public record to the applicant, in accordance with the provisions of sections 7,11,12 and 13 of the Ordinance.
(2) The designated officer may be a senior officer of the public body not below BPS-19. In case no such official has been designated or in the event of the absence or non-availability of the designated official, the person incharge of the public body shall be the designated official, for the purposes of these rules.
- Application for obtaining information.- (1) Subject to sub-section (2) of section 12 of the Ordinance, any citizen of Pakistan may apply on the Application Form as set out in Annexure-I for obtaining photocopy of the public record available with the respective public body along with an initial fee of fifty rupees for ten or less than ten pages to be deposited with the Cash Branch of the respective department under proper receipt or in the State Bank of Pakistan or National Bank of Pakistan or Treasury under the following heads of account, namely:-
(a) major head 1300000 other receipts;
(b) minor head 1390000 other; and
(e) detailed head 1391221 fee payable for obtaining information and copies of
(2) An amount of five rupees per page of photocopy shall be deposited in the heads of account specified in sub-rule (1) of rule 4 for every additional page (standard size) if the number of the pages of the record requested exceeds ten pages per requisition.
(3) In case of any Board, Commission, Council or other body established by, or under, a Federal law, charges shall be deposited in their respective heads of account.
(4) Subject to the availability of the facility each public body shall make available the Application Form (Annexure-I) on its website.
- Procedure for disposal of application.- The designated official of every public body shall give an intimation to the applicant in the form as set out in Annexure-II and duly attested photocopy of public record subject to the provisions of rules 6 and 7 except such information as is exempted under sections 8, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18 of the Ordinance, as well as, any other instructions of the Government for restricting the disclosure of information by the public body concerned.
- Procedure for filing of complaint with the head of public body.- In case the requisite information is not provided by the designated official of a public body within twenty-one days, the applicant may, file a complaint with the head of that public body and the head of such public body shall dispose of the complaint under intimation to the complainant within thirty days of its receipt. In case the application is sent through mail it shall be disposed of within prescribed time limit beginning from the date of the receipt in the office concerned.
[See rule 4]
FOR OBTAINING RECORD UNDER
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ORDINANCE, 2002 (XCVI OF 2002)
Name of the applicant _____________________________________________________
NIC No._______________________________________ (attach a photocopy of the NIC)
Father’s Name ___________________________________________________________
Name of the Public Body from which information is to be obtained _________________
Subject matter of record requested ___________________________________________
Nature of the record requested _______________________________________________
Purpose of acquisition of the information or record ______________________________
- Application Fee of Rs.50/- (Non-refundable) has been deposited with the Cash Branch of the department or in State Bank of Pakistan or National Bank of Pakistan or Treasury ____________ vide challan or receipt No.___________ dated _____________, an original copy of which is attached.
- The information obtained would not be used for any purpose other than specified above.
Signature of the Applicant
[See rule 5]
PROFORMA FOR INTIMATION TO THE APPLICANT
Reference your application dated ___________ for supply of photocopies of the record regarding __________________________________________________________
Your request has been considered and accepted/rejected by the competent authority.
- You are requested to deposit an additional amount of Rs. ___________________
(Rupees __________________________), for additional ___________ pages of photocopies (@ Rs.5/- per page), with the Cash Branch of the department or in the State Bank of Pakistan or National Bank of Pakistan or Treasury under the heads of account mentioned below:
“Major Head 1300000 Other Receipts
Minor Head 1390000 Others
Detailed Head 1391221 Fee payable for obtaining information from, and copies of Public Record”
- Your request is regretted as the same is not permissible under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Ordinance, 2002 (XCVI of 2002) for the reasons that ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Signature of the Designated Officer