I would like a clarification from the Information Commissioners, Ministry of Law and experts on citizens’ right to information. Can a citizen seek information from the Presidency, relating to the expenses incurred on the President House, his official visits, and the various secretaries and staff deputed for the ceremonies and upkeep of his establishment? All this is paid by the state exchequer and hence the citizens ought to have a right to know these facts under Article 19A of the constitution.

This question has arisen, as the President’s Secretariat believes that the Freedom of Information Ordinance (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 of 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 civilized country, the FOI law is applicable to any office or organization 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 a violation of the citizens’ fundamental right. Could this matter be publicly clarified for the information of all citizens?

NAEEM SADIQ,

Karachi, September 29.