The Right To Information: Empowering Citizens

By enacting the Right to Information (RTI) Act in 2013, KP transitioned into a new era of transparency and accountability in the region.

The Right To Information: Empowering Citizens

Accountability and Transparency are believed to be the cornerstones of better governance in a democratic society. A society where citizens have the right and can access information about their governments. It recognizes the importance of a citizen’s right where they can use their right to information for a better society. It is not just a basic right, but it also fosters trust between a country’s government and its public. 

Under the light of this trust, the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a province of Pakistan enacted the Right to Information (RTI) Act in 2013, transitioning into a new era of transparency and accountability in the region. It was a milestone that aimed at empowering citizens, promoting democratic accountability, and eradicating corruption. 

It provides a right to access the knowledge or any kind of information held by the Government, public bodies, and institutions except some private or security matters for legitimate reasons. Its main purpose was to eradicate the culture of secrecy that had been there in our society for years. This act made sure that no citizen is a passive recipient of the decisions made by the government but is an active participant in the process that is said to be democratic. It equips the citizen with the necessary information to make choices and can stand in a place where they can demand accountability from their elected representatives. 

The Act ensures the proper maintenance of all the records and information to provide it to the citizens demanding for it. All information should be duly published by public bodies in an up-to-date fashion and in a way that best ensures it is accessible to those for whom it may be relevant. 

The information which can be shared with the public includes any information about the public body, their duties, rewards, privileges, functions, services for the public and the powers they own. It also includes the rules and regulations, notifications, manuals, law, and orders in the province. 

Any benefit program run by any public body and the information related to the beneficiaries and the amount of benefits provided by the public institutions or organizations also comes under the category. 

Apart from that, information about every Public Information Officer, like their name and contact details, is also made public to the citizens in order to send the application physically and electronically.

In order to access the information an application is written to a Public Information Officer appointed under section 6 of the Act. It starts by providing basic information about the assigned Public Information Officer of the public body of which you want to demand the information from. After mentioning the department and address of the PIO, the subject of your application should be mentioned clearly. You can proceed with your application by writing the required information which you want to obtain from the government. Your request should be concise and clear. It should be a clear reflection of your interest. 

Any extra materials or background details should be avoided. You can mention your mailing address at the end or provide your electronic mail address so it can reach you online. 

Mentioning your CNIC is an important part of the application representing you as a legal citizen of the country. A person with a legal identity card is only allowed to get access to information about any public bodies, institutions and organizations. You also have the right to file a complaint if your request for information goes unaddressed by the authorities.

With every Revolution, there come challenges and difficulties. The effectiveness of any law lies in its implementation. Lack of awareness, infrastructure, and resistance shown by bureaucrats are believed to be the barriers to effective implementation. It should be further tested by the adequacy of its enforcement mechanisms and the legal framework within which it runs. 

The prompt and complete responses to information requests are indeed challenging and it can be compounded by outdated record-keeping practices and a lack of digital infrastructure, making it difficult for public bodies to retrieve and give information efficiently. 

Furthermore, the cultural shift needed to embrace transparency and openness often clashes with entrenched attitudes towards governance and public administration, requiring sustained efforts to change mindsets and institutional practices.

Despite these hurdles many steps are now being taken in order to overcome them. A multi-faceted approach involving legislative reforms, technological upgrades, ability building, and public awareness campaigns among citizens, especially youth is essential for realizing the full potential of the Right to Information Act as a tool for democratic empowerment and accountability. Different organizations with Information Commission are working for better law implementation. For this purpose, Information Commissions are set up at the provincial and federal level, playing a key role in upholding this law as a fundamental right. 

As Khyber Pakhtunkhwa continues its journey toward a system of greater Accountability, better Transparency, and participatory democracy. The Right to information will remain a cornerstone of democratic governance and will be enhanced and nourished over time. By guaranteeing access to information, the Act stands for a significant milestone. It has laid the foundation of trust between the government and the citizens.