Punjab CM’s office denies info about vehicles in Buzdar’s use

Published September 22, 2021
This file photo shows Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar. — DawnNewsTV/File
This file photo shows Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar. — DawnNewsTV/File

LAHORE: The Punjab chief minister’s office has claimed ‘legitimate privacy’ for withholding details of the vehicles under the use of chief executive of the province Usman Buzdar.

“The information cannot be shared in light of rule 13 (1) (b) of Punjab Transparency & Right to Information Act 2013 being a legitimate privacy interest,” says the CM’s office responding to a query about the total number of vehicles, along with mark and model, being used by Mr Buzdar.

The section 13 (i)(b) of the Act reads: “A public information officer may refuse an application for access to information where disclosure of the information shall or is likely to cause harm to a legitimate privacy interest, unless the person concerned has consented to disclosure of the information.”

Abdullah Malik, a lawyer, had sent the query to the CM office in January this year, invoking the rights to the citizens under the transparency and right to information law.

Also refuses to provide logbooks

The chief minister’s office took nine months to answer the query asked by the lawyer through the Punjab Information Commission. The office also refused to share copies of the log books, which contained details of the official vehicles’ use.

In response to another query, the chief minister’s office disclosed that funds to the tune of Rs348.92 million had been utilised by the Buzdar government till December 2020. However, the office refused to disclose the rules being exercised by the chief minister for the use of discretionary funds and the limit of the funds.

Citing a ‘legitimate private interest’ under the transparency law, the office said this information could not be shared with the applicant.

The CM office did not answer another query about the rules of the finance department for the allocation of further/supplementary funds for the chief minister house, terming the query ambiguous.

Following the reply, Mr Malik decided to approach a court of law against the non-provision of the required details by the chief minister’s office.

Talking to Dawn, Advocate Usama Khawar Ghumman said the chief minister was using vehicles that were funded by the taxes. He said the CM’s office could not claim legitimate privacy under the exceptions enumerated in the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013.

He pointed out that the information commissions in both Pakistan and India had held that non-provision of logbook of vehicles under the use of public officials on the assumption or apprehension of possible harm to the life or safety of a person was not enough to claim an exception under right to information laws.

He said the logbooks could reveal misuse (if any) of the official vehicles by the families of government officers. These books could also reveal if the vehicles used by the officials fall within their entitlement or not, he said and added that the denial of information about the vehicles under CM’s use was plainly illegal and unconstitutional.

Ghumman said for effective accountability of the elected representatives, the public had a right to know how their taxes were being spent by their elected representatives.

Published in Dawn, September 22nd, 2021

Opinion

Editorial

Crime against humanity
Updated 03 Dec 2021

Crime against humanity

The government has yet to fulfil its long-standing pledge to criminalise enforced disappearances.
03 Dec 2021

Revised valuations

THE revised property valuations notified by the FBR for 40 cities for the purpose of collecting federal taxes —...
03 Dec 2021

PWD await rights

ON the International Day of Disabled Persons, it is important to take stock of how far Pakistan has come in ensuring...
02 Dec 2021

Funding for polls

THE PTI government’s autocratic mentality is again on full display, even as it feigns adherence to the law....
02 Dec 2021

Soaring prices

PRICES are surging. And they are increasing at a much faster pace than anticipated, burdening millions of...
Ali Wazir’s bail
Updated 02 Dec 2021

Ali Wazir’s bail

IT has been a long time coming, but MNA and Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement leader Ali Wazir has finally been granted bail...