LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Wednesday ordered the federal government to release the complete record of the Toshakhana for an 11-year period, from 1990 to 2001, along with details of the gift-giving foreign dignitaries and countries.

Justice Asim Hafeez observed that nothing about the Toshakhana gifts should be hidden from the nation.

An assistant attorney general opposed the court’s order, saying the federal government would file an appeal against it.

The judge replied the government had a right to appeal the decision.

Justice Hafeez further observed that under the law, no one can retain a gift from Toshakhana without making a payment.

With these observations the judge disposed of a petition, filed in December, seeking details of gifts received by politicians and bureaucrats from foreign dignitaries since the country’s inception.

The federal government had earlier told the court that the Toshakhana record had been made public from 2002 to date.

The assistant attorney general had placed a report before the LHC, saying the government had placed a 466-page record of the Toshakhana on the cabinet division’s website.

However, the government withheld the names of countries and dignitaries concerned, taking a plea that the information would harm relations with other states.

Fundamental right

Petitioner Munir Ahmad contended the right to information in all matters of public importance was a fundamental right guaranteed under Articles 19 and 19-A of the Constitution.

He said the nation had a right to know details of every public transaction.

The petitioner asked the court to order the respondents to make public details of assets gifted to rulers as well as bureaucrats, and also provide the names, details, information, documentation and materials in respect of the officials who kept the gifts by making payment.

A report previously 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 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”.

Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2023

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