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Order on Appeal No 1553-12/22 Pervez Said Vs Ministry of Foreign Affairs

This commission notes that the Minister-in-Charge has classified under Section 7 (f) of “2017 Act” requested” certified true copies of the recommendations given to the concerned Provinces for the issuance of hunting permits for Houbara Bustard between 2015 and 2021”.  However, the Minister-in-Charge has not followed the manner enunciated in the “the 2017 Act” to classify records by recording reasons as to why records cannot be disclosed.

As the Minister-in-Charge has not recorded reasons for classifying the requested information/record, this commission is left with no option but to determine as to whether disclosure of the requested letters written to provinces as to who could hunt and how many Houbara Bustards is in public interest and whether harm from disclosure of this information outweighs public interest.

While there are strong arguments for the disclosure of the requested information in public interest, this commission is also mindful of the obligation of the state of Pakistan to its people to keep the requested information shrouded in the veil of secrecy in the larger economic interest of the people of Pakistan. In short, the idea is right, the time is not, especially given the interplay between the economic interests of the people of Pakistan and the inter-state relations at the present moment. Hence, the requested information cannot be disclosed under Section 7 (f) and Section 16 (1) (ii) which states that information is exempted from disclosure if “its disclosure is likely to cause damage to the interests of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in the conduct of International Relation”.

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Order on Appeal No 1740-02/22 Naeem Sadiq Vs Ministry of Foreign Affairs

As the Minister-in-Charge has not recorded reasons for classifying the requested information/record, this commission is left with no option but to determine as to whether disclosure of the requested letters written to provinces as to who could hunt and how many Houbara Bustards is in public interest and whether harm from disclosure of this information outweighs public interest.

While there are strong arguments for the disclosure of the requested information in public interest, this commission is also mindful of the obligation of the state of Pakistan to its people to keep the requested information shrouded in the veil of secrecy in the larger economic interest of the people of Pakistan. In short, the idea is right, the time is not, especially given the interplay between the economic interests of the people of Pakistan and the inter-state relations at the present moment. Hence, the requested information cannot be disclosed under Section 7 (f) and Section 16 (1) (ii) which states that information is exempted from disclosure if “its disclosure is likely to cause damage to the interests of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in the conduct of International Relation”.

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Order on Appeal No 1418-10/21 Azaz Syed Vs Ministry of Foreign Affairs

In the instant appeal, the Appellant has sought access to policy “to remove access barriers at the work place so that the officers with different disabilities could perform their official duties on equal basis with others”, those official duties include, inter alia, getting ‘access to official records in the performance of the official duties. Furthermore, ‘access’ needs of persons with disabilities are characterized by the nature of their different disabilities and can only be ensured through reasonable accommodations clearly spelled out in a legally binding policy document.

the Respondent informally shared the draft ‘Disability Index’ aimed at formulating policy guidelines to facilitate rights of persons with disabilities demonstrates that the Respondent is moving from ‘discretionary measures’ approach to adopt a legal and rights based inclusive approach to provide enabling environment to officers with disabilities so that they could perform their official functions on equal basis with others, including the right of access to information/records.

While the draft ‘Disability Index’ is a step in the right direction and shows the intent and efforts of the Respondent MoFA to provide enabling environment to its officers and staff with disabilities, a cursory analysis of both its language and the content highlights the need to involve input from officers and staff with disabilities and those officers of the Respondent who have extensive experience of working on human rights issues as the language and content both are in contravention of domestic legal and policy obligations and international commitments.

Moreover, a ‘Disability Index’ cannot replace a formal legally binding policy document formulated in line with domestic laws and policies and international commitments.

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Order on Appeal No 1974-06/22 Mubeen Mehr Vs Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The appellant requested the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for names/designation of all officers of this Ministry who availed medical treatment abroad on government expenses despite having the opportunity to avail free of cost host country’s medical treatment as per rules.

He has also requested the name of city and country where these officers availed medical treatment on government expenses and other information.

This Commission allowed the appeal and directed the Spokersperson / Public Information Officer, Ministry of Foreign Affairs to provide complete information mentioned in para 2 of this Order to the Appellant, at the earliest but not later than 7 working days of the receipt of this Order, with intimation to this office.

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Order on Appeal No 1871-04/22 M. Shabir Awan Vs Ministry of Foreign Affairs

As Appellant has sought access to old records, the disclosure of these records is warranted under Section 16 (1) (k) of the Act, 2017.
The disclosure of the requested records is of public importance on two counts. One, the 14 requested records will shed light on the factors that led to the formulation of the foreign policy of the nascent state. Two, as the requested records are mor than fifty years old, retrieval of these records would show how records are maintained by the Respondent and whether or not it needs to take remedial measures with regard to the proper maintenance of its records. Furthermore, the disclosure of the requested information will demonstrate as to what mechanism the Respondent has put in place for archiving of the records as well as d-classification of old records under the provisions of the Right of Access to Information Act, 2017 as required under its Section 16 (1) (k).

This commission holds that certain portions of these old records may contain sensitive information/records. There is a possibility that the disclosure of these portions may lead to a situation, where on the balance, harm may still outweigh public interest. However, it does not mean that any record can be exempted from disclosure in its entirety.

The Act, 2017 envisages a situation wherein a document, which should be otherwise be made public but its parts may contain exempted information. In such an eventuality, part(s) containing information to be exempted can be severed, or, blanked out from the document as mentioned in Section 16 (1) (i) of the Act, 2017. However, in such a scenario, specific reasons will have to be recorded justifying the withholding from disclosure which will be adjudicated upon by this commission.

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Order on Appeal No. 1993-06/2022 Farooq Dawood Vs Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The appellant being a citizen of Pakistan is asking for the information and record pertaining to the visit of the Prime Minister along with the delegation to Saudi Arabia held on 28th to 30thApril, 2022. He has requested for the provision of the complete list of individuals who accompanied the Prime Minister as a part of his entourage and a complete list of those sent as advance party to cover / facilitate the   visit including the individuals i.e. politicians, staff, family, friends, relatives, media, security, valets, drivers etc, and also those who joined from various locations such as Doha and London. The appellant is further desirous to know whether the tickets and hotel expenses were paid by the government of Pakistan, or by the individuals themselves.

This Commission allowed the appeal and directed the Secretary/Public Information Officer, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Islamabad to furnish the appellant all  the requested information, forthwith, but in any case not later than seven days of the receipt of this order.

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Order on Appeal No 1915-05-2022 Abdullah Malik Vs Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The appellant being a citizen of Pakistan has asked the respondent public body to provide him the information and record pertaining to the visit of Mr. Shahbaz Sharif, the worthy Prime Minister of Pakistan, to Saudi Arabia. He is desirous to know total members of the delegation along with their portfolio / profile and all other detail, total expenses incurred by the state on the visit with all detail, who bore the expenses state or individuals, the purpose of visit along with detail of activities of delegation, whether the family members of PM were part of official meeting with the Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman as they were seen present in the meeting and if yes, how an absconder can be part of meeting along with the head of state and other information incidental thereto. He is further desirous to know the comparison of the visit with that of Mr. Imran Khan, the Former Prime Minister of Pakistan.

This Commission directed the Public Information Officer, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Islamabad is directed to furnish the appellant all the requested information but in any case not later than seven days of the receipt of this order.

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Order on Appeal No 1361-09/21 Umar Hanif Khichi Vs Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The Appellant in the instant Appeal requested certified copies of letter of M/o Foreign Affairs u.o. No: Con(II)-22/11/2010 Dated 03/03/2012 and verification Letter issued by Mr. Ghulam Mustafa Anjum, the then Dy. Director (Con I), M/o Foreign Affairs;

The Respondent refused to share information stating that “As almost 10 years have passed, the letter dated 03.03.2012 is not traceable and therefore it is, respectfully requested that the appeal may be dismissed under Section 12 as the Ministry does not hold the requested information or record.”

This Commission has directed the Respondent to conduct enquiry to determine the responsibility for the misplacement of the requested records and submit compliance report to the commission within one month of the receipt of this Order.

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Order on Appeal No E24-01/21 Mubeen Mehr Vs Ministry of Foreign Affairs

This commission holds that minutes of meetings and notings on the file can only be disclosed once final decision has been taken. Furthermore, minutes of meetings and notings on the file cannot be disclosed if these hit any of the exceptions clauses of Section 16 of the Act as is the case in the instant appeal.

In the instant appeal, the requested notings on the file and minutes of the meetings pertain to a matter which has not been finalised yet as well as pertain to an on-going investigation. As such, requested notings on the file and minutes of the meetings pertaining to enquiries already concluded cannot be disclosed as their premature disclosure is likely to cause harm to and influence another on-going investigation as these notings on the file and minutes of the meetings are interrelated and pertain to similar matter of the conduct of the officer.

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Order On Appeal No. E-70/01/2021 Murtaza Hashim Vs Ministry Of Foreign Affairs

This commission has already held through its different Orders that information pertaining to salaries, perks, benefits, perks and privileges of the employees is contained in notifications which are public documents. As such, this information is not only to be provided to citizens when requested but public bodies are obligated to proactively publish through their web sites all notifications as required under Section 5 (1) (b) of the Act.

Section 5 (1) (b) of the Act requires all federal public bodies to ensure publications on their web sites of all “Statutes, statutory rules, regulations, bye-laws, orders and notifications, etc. applicable to the public body disclosing the date of their respective commencement or effect”. Furthermore, items number 2, 4, 5, 6 and seven of the requested information in para 2 is public information under Section 6 (a) and (d) of the Right of Access to Information Act 2017.

All federal public bodies are required to publish through their web sites directory of officers according to Section 5 (1) (a) of the Act. As such, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is required to share with the Appellant, and, also publish on its web site the requested information about “Total sanctioned and vacant posts of Assistant (BPS-15) in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, (MOFA), Government of Pakistan, Islamabad and “Total vacant posts in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in BPS-15 and above (other than Foreign Service of Pakistan) nomenclature wise detail.

This commission is of the view that under staffing of officers is a perennial problem faced by public bodies. However, this issue does not get public attention it deserves. If the Ministry of Foreign Affairs keeps updated diary of its officers on its web site, citizens would know about total number of sanctioned posts and the details about sanctioned posts filled and lying vacant. This critical issue of under-staffing is not going to get public attention if this information is not brought in the public domain through proactive disclosure of directory of officers through web sites.

 

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