History of Freedom of Information legislation in Pakistan:

Pakistan is the first country in the South Asia, which promulgated Freedom of Information Ordinance, 2002 at the Federal level. Despite the passage of four years since promulgation of the Ordinance, the results expected from this law are still awaited. This can largely be attributed to the lack of public awareness about the very existence of this law and certain gaps in the legislation that allow the culture of secrecy in government departments to inhibit and restrict public access. There have been many efforts for the FOI legislation in Pakistan. Realizing the international trends towards more openness and transparency, several attempts have been made in the last two decades to introduce FOI legislation in the country with the aim of promoting transparency and accountability in the government departments. A brief overview of these efforts is given as under:

1990
First attempt was made by Professor Khurshid Ahmad, Senator and Naib Amir of Jamaat-i-Islami who tabled a Bill on FOI in the Senate in 1990. This Bill was introduced in the Senate as a private Bill and was forcefully resisted and failed to be enacted.
1994
The Public Accounts Committee, headed by Senator Malik Qasim, made the second attempt in 1994. A Freedom of Information Bill drafted by the committee was forcefully resisted by the bureaucracy, and therefore, could not be enacted.
1997
A major development occurred towards enactment of FOI legislation when, on the initiative of Fakhruddin G. Ibrahim, the Federal Minister of Law in the Interim Government headed by Malik Mairaj Khalid, the President of Pakistan promulgated a Freedom of Information Ordinance on January 29, 1997. However, the successive government of Mian Nawaz Sharif allowed this Ordinance to lapse and did not enact it into law.

2000
The government of General Pervez Musharraf made public a draft FOI Bill with the aim of soliciting public view.

2001
CRCP, a national non-profit organization, proposed a Model Freedom of Information Act to the Government and launched a Campaign on Freedom of Information (FOI-Pakistan).

2001
Sindh Local Government Ordinance 2001, Section 137: “Every citizen shall have the right to information about any office of the District Government, Taluka, Tehsil, Municipal Administration and Union Administration.”

2002
The President of Pakistan, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, promulgated the Freedom of Information Ordinance on 26th October, 2002. It was published in Gazette of Pakistan (Extraordinary) pages 1564-1571 on 26-10-2002 (Ordinance # XCVI 0f 2002).

2004
Federal Freedom Of Information Rules 2004, SRO: 514(1)/2004 gazetted on 18th June 2004.

2005
Balochistan Freedom Of Information Act 2005 published in Balochistan Gazette (Extraordinary) on 06th December 2005 (Balochistan Act # VI of 2005).

2006
Sindh Freedom Of Information Bill 2006 passed by the Sindh Assembly on 15-11-2006. Governor Sindh signs the bill into Act on 18-12-2006. It was published in Sindh Gazette (Extraordinary) pages 122-129 on 22-12-2006 (Sindh Act # XIV 0f 2006).

2007
Balochistan Freedom Of Information Rules 2007, SO(INF:) 2-31/2007/1424- 1524 published on 20th November 2007.

2008
Sherry Rehman drafts a new RTI Bill. However, it is not introduced in the assembly.

2010
Article 19-A, in the 18th Amendment to the Constitution.

2012
Sindh Local Government Ordinance 2012, Section 151: “Every citizen shall have the right to information about any office of the Councils. Every office shall provide requisite information, if not restricted under any law for the time being in force, on the prescribed forms and on payment of such fee as may be prescribed.”

2013
KP Right To Information Ordinance 2013 promulgated on 13-08-2013 by KP Governor Shaukatulah Khan.

2013
The Sindh Local Government Act, 2013 (Act # XLII 0f 2013) gazetted on 16-09-2013. Section # 150 & 154.

2013
Punjab Transparency & Right To Information Ordinance 2013 (Ord. # IV of 2013) promulgated on 04-10-2013.

2013
KP Right To Information Bill 2013 passed by the KP Assembly on 31-10-2013. Governor KP signs the bill into Act on 04-11-2013. It was published in KP Gazette (Extraordinary) pages 367-380 on 05-11-2013 (Act # XXVII of 2013).

2013
Punjab Transparency & Right To Information Bill 2013 passed by the Punjab Assembly on 12-12-2013. Governor Punjab signs the bill into Act on 14-12-2013. It was published in Punjab Gazette (Extraordinary) pages 1801-08 on 16-12-2013 (Act # XLII 0f 2013).

2014
Right to Information Act (RTI) passed by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Assembly, awaits extension to the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA) through the President.
According to Clause 246(b) of the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan, in the districts of Malakand Division, Chitral, Dir, Swat, Malakand protected area and the tribal areas of Kohistan under PATA, no act passed by the provincial assembly can be implemented unless directions are received from the Governor with the approval of the President.

2015
Punjab Transparency & Right To Information Rules 2015, No.SO(P&C)IV-6/2014, notified on 04-01-2015.

2015
KP Right To Information Amendment Bill 2015 passed by the KP Assembly unanimously on 23-06- 2015. (i-KP Assembly removed from the purview of the act, ii-Number of Information Commissioners reduced to two, iii-Right to appeal the decision of the commission in the court of a district and session’s judge)

 

Freedom of Information
The right of access to information is not just a fundamental right of every citizen but also a vital instrument for sustaining a civilized and democratic society. It enables citizens to know the true 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 in the World

Article 19A of the Constitution of Pakistan

Right to information: Every citizen shall have the right to have access to information in all matters of public importance subject to regulation and reasonable restrictions imposed by law.