Sher has frequently observed that public institutions meant to serve residents fail to deliver on their responsibilities. He has noticed inefficient performance, unnecessary red tape, obvious corruption and wasted resources. Whenever he attempted to confront officials, he was met with the same response: “These are government matters and we are not answerable to you.” Yet these were institutions funded by taxes collected from the residents of Burewala Tehsil.
In August 2016, Sher attended a Transparency International Pakistan workshop which covered citizens’ right to information in detail. He learned about the simple application any citizen could make to access public information.
Determined to use this knowledge to serve his community, Sher filed three applications: one to the Provincial Highway Department inquiring about its budget for road development, and two to the Town Municipal Administration asking about the budget for paving.
When officials stalled continuously, Sher made eight visits to these agencies demanding that his applications be processed and that the officials comply with right to information laws. After months of tense discussions, Sher was successful and received the information he had requested. It revealed that contracts had been awarded for a range of work that had not been carried out, including an extended railway crossing gate, traffic signs, street lights and new paving tiles.
He filed complaints with both agencies over failure to carry out the work and followed them up, together with civil society members and other citizens. The jobs were completed and the local community benefitted from fewer accidents and delays, as well as better streets for pedestrians.
Sher is now an advocate for the right to information, teaching others about their rights and working with Transparency International Pakistan to fight in cases like his.
*Name has been changed
This blog post is an extract from Transparency International’s publication, Real Lives, Real Stories: The Power Of Information In Asia Pacific. It contains stories of citizens from ten countries across the Asia Pacific region who have used their right to information to demand accountability from their governments. Read the other stories.
We would like to thank Transparency International Pakistan for writing and sharing this story.