LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday directed the federal government to submit complete details of the Toshakhana gifts received by political rulers and bureaucrats from foreign dignitaries since the creation of Pakistan.
Justice Asim Hafeez was hearing a petition filed by a lawyer against non-provision of the details by the government. The ministries of parliamentary affairs and interior, and Pakistan Information Commission have been arrayed as respondents in the petition.
At the outset, a federal law officer objected to the maintainability of the petition saying the record of Toshakhana articles was confidential in nature and could not be made public.
The judge observed that how the details were confidential when a buyer/retainer of Toshakhana items was supposed to declare his purchases in the annual tax returns.
The judge directed the law officer to present the details and let the court decide whether the matter was confidential or not.
The judge adjourned the hearing till Jan 16, 2023.
Earlier, petitioner’s counsel Azhar Siddique argued that the people of Pakistan had a right to know every public act, everything that was done in a public way, by public functionaries and their chosen representatives.
He said the right to information was an integral part of a progressive democratic state and the same had been elaborated by the 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 public transaction and acquire information in all matters of public importance.
He stated that the right to information stemmed from the requirement that members of a democratic society should be adequately informed that they may intelligently influence the decision which may affect them.
The counsel 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.
He also sought details of the methodology used to determine the price of the Toshakhana articles.