Citizens’ right to information
KARACHI: I would like to seek an important clarification from the information commissioners, the Ministry of Law and experts on the citizens’ right to information. Can a citizen seek information from the presidency relating to expenses incurred in the presidency, his official visits, and the various secretaries and staff deputed for the ceremonies and upkeep of his establishment? All this is paid from the state exchequer and hence the citizens ought to have a right to know these facts under Article 19A of the Constitution.
The question has arisen as the president’s secretariat believes that the Freedom of Information (FOI) law is not applicable to the presidency. In response to a citizen’s question about the President’s hajj entourage and expenses, the presidency has responded by saying that, “the constitutional and statutory provisions indicate that the President’s Secretariat is neither a ‘public body’ within the meaning stated in the Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002, nor an ‘agency’ within the meaning of P.O 1 of 1983. The learned Wafaqi Mohtasib therefore, does not have any jurisdiction under P.O 1 of 1983 or the Freedom of Information ordinance 2002”.
In almost every civilised country, the FOI law is applicable to any office or organisation that is established by the government, which performs a public function or is funded by the government. The presidency meets all these three conditions and hence its claim for exemption from the FOI law appears highly unreasonable and seems to be violating fundamental rights of the citizens.
Could this matter be publicly clarified for the information of all citizens?