LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Tuesday warned the cabinet secretary of proceedings against the head of the Toshakhana department if he failed to submit an affidavit explaining as to how the state treasury details were classified.
Justice Asim Hafeez was hearing a petition seeking complete details of Toshakhana gifts received by political rulers and bureaucrats from foreign dignitaries since the creation of Pakistan.
Asked about the absence of the officer concerned, Cabinet Division Section Officer Nida Rehman told the court that the officer was due to appear before Supreme Court.
She further said the government was considering making public the details relating to the Toshakhana.
Expressing displeasure over the absence of the officer concerned, the judge observed that the court had no concern with the government’s decisions.
The judge warned the officer of contempt proceedings for not submitting the affidavit required under article 6 of Qanun-i-Shahadat Order 1984, with respect to the record of Toshakhana, with an explanation that how the disclosure of the record would prejudice the public interest and jeopardise the state interest.
The judge adjourned further hearing till Feb 21.
On the last hearing, a report filed by the cabinet division had revealed that the prime minister`s office, through a notification issued on Nov 26, 2015, had declared that information pertaining to the Toshakhana gifts was classified and disclosure of such information could “cause unnecessary media hype, which could be potentially damaging to the interests of Pakistan in the conduct of international relations”.
Petitioner Munir Ahmed, through Advocate Azhar Siddique, argued that the right to information was an integral part of a progressive democratic state and the same had been elaborated by superior courts, saying the right to information in all matters of public importance is indisputably a fundamental right guaranteed under Article(s) 19 and 19-A of the Constitution.
He said the public at large was entitled to know details of every transaction and acquire information in all matters of public importance.
The petitioner asked the court to allow the petition and order the respondents to make public the details of assets gifted to rulers, as well as bureaucrats, and also provide the names, details, information, documentation and materials in respect of the persons/officials, who have obtained the assets by making the payment.
Published in Dawn, February 8th, 2023
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