‘Every citizen shall have the right to have access to information in all matters of public importance subject to regulation and reasonable subject to regulation and reasonable restrictions imposed by law. ‘ – Article 19A of the constitution of Pakistan
The right of access to information is not just a fundamental right of every citizen but it is also a vital instrument for sustaining a civilized and democratic society. It enables citizens to know the actual facts and thus objectively evaluate or monitor the performance of their government. The right to information is critical to the process of strengthening good governance, accountability and transparency.
Freedom of Information Legislation:
FOI legislation comprises of laws that guarantee access to data held by the state. They establish a right-to-know legal process by which requests may be made by government held information. The government organizations are bound to provide this information within 21 days except where the requested information falls in a category that is exempt from disclosure.
Did you know? Any citizen can request information from any public body!
Who Can You Request the Information From?
Any public body. That means:
- Any ministry, division of department of the Federal or Provincial government.
- Any Federal or Provincial Legislature (National Assembly or Provincial Assembly Secretariat)
- Any office of any Board, Commission, Council, Municipal or Local Authority established by or under a Federal or Provincial government.
- Any Federal or Provincial court or tribunal.
- Any corporation, body or institution set up, established, owned or controlled by the Federal or Provincial government.
General Guidelines for Requesting Information:
- Always be specific about the information you require.
- Mention a time period in your request.
- Get a receipt of the information request from the official if you submit it in person.
- Use registered post if you send it through post.
Five Steps for Obtaining Information:
- Determine what information or records you need.
- Identify the custodian ministry, department or public body that must be approached for obtaining the required information.
- Fill Application Form A* along with the declaration. Also attach a CNIC copy.
- Deposit a challan* of PKR 50 in any branch of National or State Bank.
- Submit the application to the designated public body. You should retain a copy of the application for future usage,
Sample Questions for Right to Information Requests:
- Certified information about the number of basic health units in the district.
- Certified information about the shopkeepers on whom fine was imposed for violation of price list between May 21, 2014 and May 21, 2015.
- Certified information about the total fine collected from shopkeeper who violated the price list between May 21, 2014 and May 21, 2015.
If you want more information, visit the excellent Shehri website, who have done amazing work in this field.
* Refer to Shehri’s RTI toolkit for the application form and challan form