CSOs Provincial Coordination Meeting for Enhanced Awareness and Implementation of Right to Information Laws in Punjab

Date: 30 May 2021

Venue: Pir Mahal Tehsil of Toba Tek Singh District, Punjab

Summary: Transparency International Pakistan organized a CSOs Provincial Coordination Meeting for Enhanced Awareness and Implementation of Right to Information Laws in Toba Tek Singh, Punjab.

The meeting was held at Agahai Center No.319 Pir Mahal Social Welfare Society and was attended by 29 participants including 11 females and 18 males. The representatives from the following CSOs attended the meeting: Aman Welfare Association Sindlia Wali, Pir Mehal Development Council PirMehal, Iqbal Eagle Foundation Pir Mehal, Peace and Environmental Cooperation Circle Pakistan, Holy Human Development Organization, and Social Welfare Society. The meeting took place in strict compliance to the COVID-19 SOP’s.

The meeting began at 11:00 AM and stated with the recitation of the Holy Quran. Mr. Muhammad Ansar recited the verses from the Holy Quran. Afterwards, Mr. Nasir Mahmood Saleem – General Secretary Social Welfare Society informed the participants about the objectives and activities of Social Welfare Society and Transparency International Pakistan. He also gave a detailed presentation on Article 19 of the Constitution of Pakistan and the provincial RTI law – Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013. After the presentation, the participants discussed the challenges faced by the civil society in the implementation of the law such as low level of awareness among the citizens and public officials, lack of information sharing attitude in government departments, the role of Information Commission in handling citizens’ complaints and the poor state of implementation of proactive disclosure. It was highlighted that the law was enacted more than 7 years ago, however, most of the citizens do not have sufficient information regarding the process of filing RTI requests. Numbers of options were discussed which can be used by the citizens for getting information from the public authorities such as:

  1. Number of Doctors in a government hospital and their salaries
  2. Number of Teachers in the government run schools and their salaries
  3. Budget allocated for the construction of the roads
  4. Merit list pertaining to job recruitment

The participants were also informed about the operational mechanism of Punjab Information Commission. Under the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013, each department has a Public Information officer who provides the information, however, if the Information Officer is not available, then the Head of the department will provide the information in 14 days.

Towards the end, the participants identified governance related issues and wrote applications to different departments which will be sent by Transparency International Pakistan and the partner organization after review. A total of 22 RTI requests were generated.

In the end, the civil society representatives discussed the way forward and suggested to use social media and other platform to disseminate awareness on RTI laws in Pakistan and appreciated the efforts of Transparency International Pakistan.