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LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Wednesday disposed of a petition and directed the government to make the record of Toshakhana gifts public since 1990 to 2001.

The court also directed the government to make public any gift received by the country from friendly nations and observed that complete transparency should be maintained, and nothing should be hidden.

The government, under a previous court’s order, had made public the details of foreign gifts retained by public office holders, politicians, bureaucrats, retired generals, judges and journalists from 2002 to 2022.

The government had maintained that releasing all the records may harm Pakistan's relations with friendly countries; however, the court ignored these warnings and ordered to declassify records.

In the previous hearing, a day after the release of Toshakhana records from 2002 onwards, the high court had directed the law officer to submit the remaining record before 2002, including the names of those who gave the said gifts. Earlier, a law officer objected to the court directions regarding disclosure of the sources of gifts.

The court observed that the government has right to appeal when the law office said, “We intend to file an appeal against the court’s direction”. The court also observed that no one could retain any gift without making the necessary payment.

The petitioner contended that “the right to information is an integral part of a progressive democratic state and a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19 and 19-A of the Constitution.”

He argued that the people of Pakistan have the right to know every act of 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. The petitioner also sought details of the methodology used to determine the price of Toshakhana articles.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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