LAHORE: A day after the Cabinet Division released details of the Toshakhana gifts for the last 21 years, the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday directed the law officer representing the federal government to “submit in chamber” the remaining record before 2002, including the names of those who gave those gifts.

Justice Asim Hafeez observed that an appropriate order would be passed after going through the record.

At the outset of the hearing, the additional attorney general placed a report before the court, saying the government had released the 466-page record of the Toshakhana on the Cabinet Division’s website.

It happened when Justice Asim Hafeez was hearing a petition seeking complete details of the gifts received by political rulers and bureaucrats from foreign dignitaries since the creation of Pakistan.

The court summoned minutes of the federal cabinet meeting that had decided to publicise the record of the Toshakhana articles since 2002.

Azhar Siddique, the counsel for the petitioner, contended that the record released by the government “might have been altered”.

The court would resume the hearing on March 21.

Earlier, a section officer of the Cabinet Division produced the sealed record of the Toshakhana articles from 2002 onwards.

A report filed by the cabinet 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 his counsel argued that right to information was an integral part of a progressive democratic state and the same has been elaborated by superior courts. He said 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 public 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 details of the 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, March 14th, 2023

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