ISLAMABAD: In a clear violation of the law, the President’s Secretariat says it is not a public body and hence it doesn’t fall within the ambit of the Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002, said a letter received by The News from the Presidency.
Almost a month back, The News sought details about the history of the military secretary’s office working at the Presidency under the Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002. Besides, a list of military secretaries to the president since the inception of the military secretary’s office and perks and privileges of the military secretary were sought, but not a single record was received.
The Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002 law was formed to “provide for transparency and freedom of information to ensure that the citizens of Pakistan have improved access to public records and for the purpose to make the federal government more accountable to its citizens,” says the first paragraph of the law.
The President Secretariat is not applying the Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002, which was formed and later issued by the same secretariat.
Probably without reading the relevant law and avoiding any legal deliberations, the President Secretariat wrote an answer to this correspondent on Oct 31, 2014 through its Assistant Director (Administration) Mujahid Ali who works at the President’s Secretariat Public Wing.
The Assistant Director wrote, “You are informed that the President’s Secretariat is not a public body within the meaning of Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002 as such the information/ record pertaining to this Secretariat can’t be requested to be provided.”
Contrary to the claim of assistant director, the draft of the ordinance is very clear that the Presidency does fall within the orbit of this law. In its portion of definition the Section (h) is related to public bodies and in sub section ii) of its clause h the Secretariat of Majlis-e-Shoora (parliament) is included in the preview of the said law. As we all know, according to the Constitution, Parliament consists of Presidency, the National Assembly and the Senate.
Earlier in December 2013, the Presidency also ignored the right to information request by a Karachi-based citizen Naeem Sadiq, who under the same law sought the details of expenses incurred on President Mamnoon Hussain’s visit to Saudi Arabia to perform Haj heading a 30-member entourage in October.
“I personally think the Presidency does not want to be accountable by answering the questions and providing information to citizens,” said Zahid Abdullah, a senior activist of Right to Information in Pakistan and author of “Disabled by Society. He said the Presidency should be more open as we are living in a democratic country.