Unnoticed by most Pakistanis, an absolutely brilliant and outstanding event took place on Friday, October 24, 2014 which has set a new precedent. In a system, often described as dysfunctional and dilapidated, something actually changed. In a bold and long awaited move, the Punjab Information Commission (PIC) handed out the first penalty of its kind, for violation of the Punjab Right to Information Act (RTI). In June 2014, a government school teacher from Vehari, invoked the RTI law, to seek from the Executive District Officer (EDO) a copy of an inquiry report against him and the seniority list of teachers in his institute. As expected and experienced in 95 percent of cases, the EDO failed to provide the requested information.

The brave teacher, as stated in the law, moved the Provincial Information Commission. The Commission found the EDO guilty of neglect and indifference. He was awarded the first penalty, under the RTI law in Pakistan – a fine equaling two months of his salary. What makes this event so unique and so consequential? It sets the first precedence of its kind and delivers a strong message to all government functionaries. They ought to respect the citizens’ constitutional ‘Right To Information’. Failure to do so could have serious consequences.

This event also demonstrates a behavior model that needs to be emulated by the Federal and Provincial Ombudsmen. The IG Police of Sindh has failed to provide information relating to policemen and police vehicles that are deployed on VIP duties, a question asked under RTI some six months back. Now the question is, will the Sindh Ombudsman have the courage and the good sense to fine the IG Police, for his neglect and indifference?

NAEEM SADIQ,

Karachi, October 26.