ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Information Commission (PIC) has asked the establishment division to make public the details of assets owned by civil servants, particularly officers of powerful service cadres such as Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS) and Police Service of Pakistan (PSP).
The commission is an independent and autonomous enforcement body established under Section 18 of the Right of Access to Information Act, 2017 to ensure implementation of this act. Its role is to establish mechanisms so that citizens of Pakistan may exercise their constitutional right of access to information in matters of public importance.
On a petition of a citizen, Nadeem Umar, the PIC directed the establishment division’s public information officer “to provide the following requested information to the applicant, with intimation to this commission, within 10 working days of the receipt of this order”.
The petitioner sought details of assets’ declaration, list of officers, their designation and current posting details, the names of officers whose promotion was halted due to non-submission of asset details, and the list of officers, with their designations and current posting data, who had never submitted their assets’ declaration during their entire service tenure.
The petition also inquired if “it is a fact that the establishment division has decided not to promote those officers who are not submitting their asset declarations” and whether “the establishment division conducted any inquiry/inquiries regarding the increase in assets of the officers”.
Establishment division may file appeal against PIC order
The petitioner also sought “list of the cases, or list of the officers, whose cases are sent to any agency for verification regarding the increase in their assets, along with the details of their current status”.
The commission comprising Chief Information Commissioner Mohammad Azam, Information Commissioners Zahid Abdullah and Fawad Malik had issued a notice to the establishment division but the latter did not respond to it.
Subsequently, the commission passed an ex-parte order.
The commission maintained that on the balance, public interest outweighs any harm to personal privacy of the civil servants who fail to fulfill their obligation of submitting details of their assets.
The PIC held that “it is only through the disclosure of the requested information that citizens of Pakistan who pay taxes for, inter alia, the salaries of civil servants, will be able to know the names, designations and number of officers who are not fulfilling their obligation of submitting their assets’ declaration; frequency and duration of the failure on their part in submitting assets’ declaration; and action taken, if any, by the establishment division against the officers who failed to submit their assets’ declaration”.
Sources in the commission said that the establishment division neither had responded to the petition despite the issuance of summons nor had it implement the PIC’s directives so far.
Under sub-section 2 of section 20 of the Right of Access to Information Act, 2017, the PIC can initiate contempt proceeding against any official for non-compliance of its orders.
Legal adviser of the establishment division Raja Samiul Haq Satti, when contacted, said that Information Act also provided right to appeal against any order. He said the order of the information commission is being examined and the competent authority will decide about filing of appeal against the order at an appropriate forum, or otherwise.
Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2021