ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday ordered Deputy Attorney General Arshad Kayani to ensure the Pakistan Information Commission’s (PIC) decision to make public information of gifts given to former Prime Minister Imran Khan by heads of state after he took office in August 2018 be carried out.
While hearing two petitions on the case, Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb issued the instruction, one by a person seeking execution of the PIC ruling and the other by the Cabinet Division opposing that order.
Last year, the PIC approved an application in this regard, instructing the Cabinet Division to “provide the requested information about the gifts received by Prime Minister Imran Khan from foreign heads of state, heads of governments, and other foreign dignitaries… description/specification of each gift, information about the gifts retained by the PM, and the Rules under which gifts thus received are retained by him.”
The Cabinet Division was given 10 working days to share the essential information with the public and to post it on the official website.
Following that, the Cabinet Division filed a lawsuit in the Islamabad High Court, stating that the PIC order was “illegal, without lawful authority.” The administration at the time believed that disclosing any information about Toshakhana would jeopardise foreign relations.
During today’s session, Justice Aurangzeb stated that the presents belonged to the prime minister’s office and could not be taken home with him.
“People come and go, but the [Prime Minister’s] Office continues to exist. If money is provided to a particular level and the present is stored [with the prime], it is not a huge deal “He went on to say that the government should make it a policy to deposit all gifts in Toshakhana.
He mentioned that Pakistan had given former US President John F. Kennedy a chair, which was on exhibit in a museum.
Gifts were not only received from foreign dignitaries, but were also presented to them after being purchased with treasury cash, according to Justice Aurangzeb.
He stated that any presents received from overseas should be displayed.
When the deputy AG asked the court for time to receive instructions from the government, Justice Aurangzeb stated he could accept it but that the PIC order should be followed in the interim.
“If the information commission has ruled that the information be given to the citizen (who made the application), then follow through. If someone has brought presents from abroad back to their house, return them “According to the judge.
He went on to say that if constitutional interpretation was required, the court would offer it.
“The Pakistan Information Commission’s ruling is not being challenged. The Cabinet Division is obligated to give data “he said
The case was then postponed for another two weeks.
Order from the PIC
The PIC observed in its ruling that the Cabinet Division had rejected access to each piece of sought material, claiming a variety of reasons “Right to Information Act, section 7(f) and clause 16(ii). Under these clauses, even the sought item of information concerning the laws governing the retention of presents received from foreign dignitaries by the prime minister has been omitted.”
It was not the case, according to the PIC “certified information, but a lack of certified information adds to’media hype’ and leads to ‘unwarranted stories,’ eroding citizens’ faith in government institutions. Certified information would disprove rumours regarding public officials reporting presents to ‘Toshakhana’ and their retention price, as well as which elected representative or public official kept the item at what price.”
Citizens of Pakistan would know that presents received on their behalf are being properly managed when certified information about these gifts is made accessible in the public domain for everyone to view, according to the commission.
The availability of certified information about the gifts deposited in Toshakhana in the public domain will not only make the entire process of managing these gifts open and transparent, but it will also help to reduce the trust deficit between citizens and public institutions, which is exacerbated by the opacity and secretive ways in which public institutions operate, according to the report.
The PIC noted in its ruling that residents of the states whose presents are received by our elected representatives and public officials would learn that their gifts are appropriately managed, therefore boosting people-to-people and inter-state ties.
Toshakhana, which was established in 1974 and is under the administrative authority of the cabinet division, preserves valuable presents presented to monarchs, MPs, bureaucrats, and officials as a goodwill gesture by leaders of other countries, states, and foreign dignitaries.
Bulletproof automobiles, gold-plated souvenirs, pricey paintings, watches, decorations, carpets, and swords are among the goods on display.