LAHORE, Pakistan: In response to the Lahore High Court’s (LHC) directive to provide details with regards to Toshakhana gifts, the federal government on Thursday excused itself from complying with the orders, arguing that it may lead to damaging Pakistan’s foreign relations.
However, the Court rejected the government’s response and directed the Head of Toshakhana Department to submit the record along with his affidavit on February 7.
The heading was conducted by Justice Asim Hafeez of the LHC.
The Additional Attorney General Nasar Ahmed appeared on behalf of the government while advocate Azhar Siddique represented the petitioner Munir Ahmad, a private citizen.
In an earlier heading, the Lahore High Court (LHC) had sought details of Toshakhana gifts received by political rulers and bureaucrats from foreign dignitaries since 1947.
In its report submitted today, the federal government referred to a notification of November 26, 2015, declaring that “the information pertaining to Toshakhana gifts is classified as disclosure of such information can cause unnecessary media hype, which could be potentially damaging to the interests of Pakistan in the conduct of international relations.”
The report also quoted Section 15 (1) of “the erstwhile Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002 that reads information may be exempt if its disclosures would be likely to cause grave and significant damage to the interest of Pakistan In the conduct of international relations”.
The government argued that “The Right of Access to Information (RTI) Act, 2017”, also provided exemption from disclosure of the information that pertained “to the personal privacy of an individual, the information declared as classified by the minister-in-charge of the federal government and the information whose disclosure may cause damage to the interests of Pakistan in the conduct of international relations.”
آج لاہور ہائیکورٹ میں توشہ خانہ کیس کی سماعت ہوئ وفاقی حکومت نے مؤقف اختیار کیا کہ اگرتوشہ خانہ کا ریکارڈ پبلک کیا گیا تو خارجہ تعلقات شدید متاثر ہوں گے،یہ حیرت انگیز ہے صرف چند ہفتے پہلے توشہ خانہ کی گھڑی حکومت کا ٹاپ ایجنڈا تھا اب اس مؤقف سے فراراس لئے کہ اپنا کچا چٹھہ کھلے گا؟
— Ch Fawad Hussain (@fawadchaudhry) January 19, 2023
It was further apprised to the LHC that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) formed an Inter-Ministerial Committee to formulate a new Toshakhana policy based on international best practices and principles of openness and transparency.
The recommendations of the Inter-Ministerial Committee along with the new proposed Toshakhana Procedure 2022 and draft legislation were submitted to the PMO on Aug 12, 2022 for approval and its subsequent placement before the Federal Cabinet, it was also told.
Later, the heading was adjourned till February 7.