When the present age is rightly called the age of information, the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) is set to table a bill to amend the provincial Right to Information Act 2013 (RTIA). The motive behind the amendment is nothing but to make the process of gaining information more difficult. Considering such a regressive step of KP government, it is not wrong to say that “one step forward, two steps back” is the principle KP government follows in virtually every aspect of governance.

What motives does the provincial government want to achieve through the proposed bill, The KP Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2018? It is safe to assume that the move is intended to provide a blanket cover to the incompetency of governmental departments in carrying out their duties. Can the attempt of amending the previous act is to escape accountability? Indeed! Will the proposed piece of legislation make it difficult to uncover a violation of rules and procedures of governance? Definitely!

It is ironic to see such a move coming from no one else but from the Pakistan Tehreek Insaf (PTI) government that takes pride in calling itself the champion of transparency and accountability. The proposed changes to the law that include authorising the government institutions to deny provision of information goes against Article 19-A of the constitution. The said article allows every citizen the right to have access to information in all matters of public importance. The proposed amendment to KP’s RTIA was the least one could have expected from PTI. What is the ruling party in KP up to?

The KP government needs to realise that RTI is considered essential to empower citizens, ensure transparency in governance, and improve delivery of public services by facilitating public participation and oversight. The proposed changes would not only undermine the effectiveness of the law, but it would also defeat the purposes of the said act.

It is a matter of shame for the provincial government that stands on the pillars of good governance and accountability, both of which require public to scrutinise the actions of leaders and government organisations, to table a set of restrictions on people’s right to information in matters of public importance. The minds behind the proposal are apparently unaware of the requirements of democracy. For “information” is the “oxygen of democracy”. Denying information to the public is refusing them to make an opinion and judgment of the government’s performance.