Lahore: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday sought the details of Toshakhana gifts received by political leaders and bureaucrats from foreign dignitaries since the creation of Pakistan.
During the hearing of a plea seeking court orders for making public the details of Toshkhana gifts, Justice Asim Hafeez of the LHC directed the federal government to submit the details by January 16. The LHC also asked the government to share information about persons/officials who have obtained the assets after making a payment.
The Toshakhana is a department under the administrative control of the Cabinet Division, which was established in 1947. It stores precious gifts given to rulers, parliamentarians, bureaucrats, and officials by heads of other governments and states and foreign dignitaries.
According to the Toshakhana rulebook, gifts received by persons to whom these rules apply shall be reported to the Cabinet Division.
During the hearing today, Sheraz Zaka — government’s counsel — contended that details related to Toshakhana were classified and could not be made public.
At that, the court enquired how could the details not be disclosed.
“Submit the details to the court and the court will decide whether or not they are classified,” the judge remarked.
The petition was filed last week by lawyer Munir Ahmad through Advocate Azhar Siddique.
“The right to information is an integral part of a progressive democratic state and the same has 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,” the petition stated.
Therefore, he argued, the people of Pakistan had the right to know every public act, everything that is done in a public way, by public functionaries and their chosen representatives.
The petitioner contended that people at large were entitled to know details of every public transaction and acquire information in all matters of public importance.