ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court on Wednesday cautioned Prime Minister Imran Khan about the consequences of disclosing a confidential communication containing a ‘threat’ to the PTI government.
The court gave the warning on a petition filed by a citizen, Naeem Khan, through his counsel Ali Raza.
The petitioner said he had been aggrieved by Mr Khan’s statement that he would disclose the contents of a confidential letter. He pointed out that Mr Khan could not disclose it as the prime minister was barred from doing so under Section 5 of the Official Secrets Act, 1923.
Speaking at a public meeting at the Parade Ground on Sunday, the prime minister had waved the letter, saying its contents contained a threat to his government.
The petitioner said that as the no-confidence motion had been tabled in the National Assembly against the prime minister, it was apprehended that the PM’s personal interest may prevail over his official obligations.
The counsel for the petitioner contended that contents of the letter likely to be made public were covered under Section 5 of the Official Secrets Act. The counsel drew the attention of the court to Section 5 in support of his contention and said that no document in possession of a public office holder could be disclosed to a person other than to whom he was authorised to communicate it, or a court of justice or a person to whom it was, in the interest of the state, or his duty to communicate it.
The counsel, therefore, stressed that a confidential letter cannot be made public; otherwise, it would be in violation of the Official Secrets Act 1923, as well as the oath taken by the prime minister under Article 91(5) of the Constitution.
The court noted that the prime minister represented the people of Pakistan and he was administered the oath under Article 91(5) of the Constitution.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah stated in the order that “the worthy prime minister is an elected leader of the treasury benches. The court is confident that as an elected prime minister he would not disclose any information or act in breach of Section 5 of the Official Secrets Act, 1923, nor the oath taken by him under the Constitution”.
Justice Minallah cautioned that “any decision taken by the worthy prime minister has to be in consonance with his obligations under the Official Secrets Act, 1923, and in letter and spirit of the oath of the office”.
He said “the court has trust and confidence that the worthy prime minister of Pakistan would not reveal any information which may be prejudicial to the national interest and national integrity of Pakistan nor that he would act in any manner that would have the effect of violating his oath”.
The court disposed of the petition without issuing the restraining order, observing that “passing a restraining order would unjustifiably reflect lack of confidence in an elected prime minister”.
Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2022