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Expectation Versus Reality: Political Expediencyand Implementation of Right to Information Laws

Author: MOHSIN BASHIR AND MUHAMMAD AZFAR NISAR
Published in PAQ, Vol. 44 No. 1

The Right to Information laws have been seen as a critical step in the global movement towards increased transparency of governments. In this article, we empirically analyze the implementation of the RTI law in Punjab, Pakistan by studying the experiences of citizens as they try to access information from different government departments. Our research suggests that the RTI law of Punjab incurs a disproportionate administrative burden in the form of high compliance, learning and cognitive costs on citizens. More importantly, a combination of lack of political interest, bureaucratic inertia and low local demand suggest that the RTI law is merely a ceremonial law with the government having limited interest in its effective implementation. Hence, our research suggests going beyond the mere introduction of RTI laws and calls for increased empirical inquiry of the local demand, policy formulation process, and the implementation of such laws.
Keywords: Right to Information; Policy Implementation; Designed to fail; Accountability; Transparency; Freedom of Information

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