The right to information (RTI) is one of the basic drivers of participatory democracy. Yet given that information is power there are those who are averse to relinquishing that power through the free flow of information for all. Democracy, for its part, represents the continuous struggle for inclusionary empowerment — making it a treacherous path to take. Empowerment through knowledge leads to informed decision making. This is one of the basic tenets of a media and information system within a democratic set-up. Yet power is inherently structured to limit itself to the smallest possible group of stakeholders. Therefore when it comes to the concentration of this power within similar interest groups — knowledge becomes something to be controlled and, in turn, finds itself dependent upon information. An obscurantist society can never tolerate the free flow of knowledge and wisdom. No system of devolution or decentralisation can survive without perfect knowledge of the prevailing system of governance as well as inherent power structures and mechanisms Suffice to say the path to RTI is a complicated one and one that puts governments in the driving seat of change. Modern measures of democracy dictate that a regime’s credentials are strengthened internationally by transparency indicators as well as participatory practices within the context of decentralisation. The latter is a process that demands the de-concentration of power so that it flows outwards to the lower echelons of power, that is, right to the community level. This ensures independence of decision making for the common man, who remains the fundamental driver of the democratic process itself. No system of devolution or decentralisation can survive without perfect knowledge of the prevailing system of governance as well as inherent power structures and mechanisms. Yet such empowerment by means of the above can only be achieved if citizens are also allowed access to the functioning of state and society in terms of decision making and other processes; as well as the inner workings of all institutions, both public and private. Also needed are procedural structures to operationalise the democratic ideals of freedom and transparency. That is, the freedom to know and the transparency to hold power. The institution of the Right to Information Act is one such move towards this end. Efforts in this regard in Pakistan date back to 1990, with Professor Khurshid Ahmad tabling legislation in the Senate. After prolonged debate it was passed some seven years later under the guise of the Freedom of Information Act. Nevertheless, it wasn’t until April 2010 that Article 19-A was added to the Constitution (through the 18th amendment), recognising the RTI as a fundamental right. This may be seen as the first concrete step in the path towards the institutionalisation of RTI legislation. The devolution of powers through the 18th amendment designated RTI a provincial subject. Presently, the governments of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Punjab and, most recently, Sindh, have passed RTI into law. The KP RIT commission is fully functioning, while that of the Punjab has an office yet commissioners are conspicuous by their absence in the post-legislation period. Meaning that while complaints can be filed — full processing of cases as well as action in case of non-compliance cannot be undertaken. The passing of the Act at the provincial level combined with the establishment of RTI commissions, nonetheless, remains an important step towards empowerment through information and transparency. But it isn’t enough. Given that there are no international safeguards to RTI — private citizens and institutions often find ways of circumventing compliance with the law. These may range from simply being uncomfortable with the disclosure of personal information to, more seriously, hiding corruption or covering up malpractice. People and institutions consider the giving away of information as being synonymous with surrendering power. This especially holds true in the case of Pakistan, which is plagued by additional hurdles such as lack of awareness about the law when it comes to both those seeking information and those whose role is to provide it. Significantly, cultural hindrance plays a role when talking about a society based on the concentration of power. A people ruled for millennia have not changed tangibly during an interrupted 70 year period of so-called democratic rule because political democracy has never rooted itself strongly at the socio-cultural level. Meaning that the succession of elections and the rotation of power between a select group of people are forever an obstacle to participatory decision making. Pakistan’s democracy therefore remains confined, ostensibly, to the show of parliamentary elections and the so-called bicameral legislature, which exchanges hands with military dictatorships. There is much to be desired for an environment where the right to information is understood as a human right. Those in power are afraid of sharing information, knowing that information is power; and since they are more interested in control than governance they take sharing of information as losing control. The writer holds a PhD from the Institute of KMW, University of Leipzig, Germany. He has had a long career as a working journalist and trainer. Currently, he is Professor of Journalism at the University of Peshawar. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Daily Times, September 1st 2017.