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Order on Appeal No. E292-06/2022 Haris Rasheed Vs Ministry of Interior

In the instant appeal, the citizen is asking for information pertaining to his application submitted on 28.10.2021vide diary number 2789 for the issuance of non-prohibited bore arms license. He is further interested to know as to how many prohibited Bore and Non-Prohibited Bore arms licenses were issued in the year 2021 and 2022 under the Pakistan Arms Rules 2021 (F. No. 12/4/2020-Arms (PB) Government of Pakistan.

The Deputy Secretary (Law-II)/Public Information Officer, Ministry of Interior, is directed to furnish the appellant all the requested information and record, forthwith, but in any case not later than seven days of the receipt of this order.

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Order on Appeal No E182-11/21 Imdad Hussain Vs Federal Investigation Agency, Ministry of Interior, Cabinet Division

This commission maintains that though the sugar enquiry report is in possession of FIA, Cabinet Division is the custodian of this enquiry report for the purposes of the Act, 2017 as it has propriety rights of this report.
This commission holds that the Act, 2017 does not only treat finalised enquiry reports as public documents, it requires federal public bodies to proactively publish these finalised enquiry reports on their web sites through its Section 5 (1) (i).
This commission maintains that the Act, 2017 does not provide blanket exemption to any finalised enquiry report.
This commission holds that merely because certain portions of a finalised enquiry report and its ancillary documents may contain information/records which may be hit by exemption clauses of the Act, 2017, it does not mean that it 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.
This commission also holds that if Respondent-3, Cabinet Division determines that certain portions of the requested finalised enquiry report, or, certain portions of any of its ancillary documents are hit by any of the exemption clauses of the Act, 2017, the Respondent-3 is required to record specific reason(s) to justify exemption of the portion by invoking the particular exemption clause of the Act, 2017.

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Order on Appeal No. E292-06/2022 Haris Rasheed Vs Ministry of Interior

While dealing with the matters related to information and record sought by the citizens under the Act 2017, the public bodies are under obligation to respond the applications as mandated in the Act. In the case in hand the respondent has not acknowledged the application, information is not provided to the applicant in the stipulated time frame and the notices of the Commission are ignored. The reply is not submitted and the hearing before the Commission was not represented by the public body. It is presumed that the respondent public body is willfully avoiding the proceedings before the Commission and that the public body has nothing in the sleeves to submit in the defence. In such like circumstances the Commission is left with no option but to decide the appeal ex parte after going through the file in light of the Act.

The appeal is allowed and the Deputy Secretary (Law-II)/Public Information Officer, Ministry of Interior, is directed to furnish the appellant all the requested information and record, forthwith, but in any case not later than seven days of the receipt of this order.

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Order on Appeal No 1454-11/21 Abdullah Malik Vs Ministry of Interior

So far as item 1 in para 2 of this Order is concerned, this commission is satisfied with the response pertaining to access to certified agreement with TLP as the Respondent has provided Affidavit to the effect that no such agreement with TLP exists.

So far as the requested information about access to certified copies of previous agreements with TLP, as requested in item 7 of para 2 of this Order is concerned, this commission holds that this information is public and should be disclosed to the Appellant if available with the Respondent.

This commission holds that the requested information about portion of the summary containing information about the revocation of the ban on TLP in item 3 of para 2 is public document. The unrelated parts of the summary can be severed under Section 16 (1) (i)   of the Act.

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Order on Appeal No 1388-10/21 Mukhtar Ahmed Ali Vs Ministry of Interior

This commission maintains that the requested certified copies of records pertaining to Correspondence, recommendations and decisions, if any, in relation to nay proposal/ summary that the Ministry has received /moved for the creation of posts of Cashier/ Accountant or any other staff with competence / skills for managing funds allocated to the police stations in Islamabad in the Annual Budget 2021-22 is public information and should have been provided to the Appellant, if available with the Respondent.

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Order on Appeal No 1587-12-2021 Abdullah Malik Vs Ministry of Interior, Cabinet Division, Ministry of Human Rights, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony

The appellant wants to know the steps taken by the concerned authorities towards the implementation of verdict of Hon’ble Supreme Court of Pakistan in a Suo Moto Case No. 7/2017 regarding Islamabad-Rawalpindi sit-in/dharna at Faizabad announced on 6th February, 2019 with certain declarations and directions to the Government of Pakistan, through the Cabinet Secretary, Secretary Defense, Secretary Interior, Secretary Human Rights, Secretary Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony, Secretary Information, the Chief Secretaries of the provinces, the Election Commission of Pakistan, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority and the Chief Commissioner of Islamabad.. He has desired the information under the fundamental right enshrined in Article 19A of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 and the statutory right provided under the Right of Access to Information Act, 2017.

The appeal is allowed. The Designated Officers/Secretaries of the Ministry of Interior, Cabinet Division, Ministry of Human Rights, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting and Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony are directed to provide the appellant the desired information and record forthwith but in any case not later than seven days of the receipt of this order.

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Order on Appeal No.784-12/20 Syed Kausar Abbas Vs Ministry of Interior

Through this Order, the commission has settled the issue as to how records are to be classified and declassified.

The commission observed that a public body cannot deny access to any finalised report because parts of records/information of the requested information fall within the scope of exceptions mentioned in Section 16 of the Act.  If the public interest warrants the disclosure of a report, though some of its part may contain information which should be exempted from disclosure on reasonable grounds, those parts can be severed and the rest should be made public as required under Section 16 (1) (i)   of the Act.

The commission held that reports cannot be shrouded in secrecy for eternity. The commission maintained that after every twenty years,  record of public bodies should be made public.

The commission observed: George Santayana rightly stated that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. That is why, like other nations, our honourable Parliamentarians, have included the provision to declassify records after 20 years so that nation could remember its past, discuss and debate decisions taken in a certain context by politicians and state functionaries.

Good governance in the country can only be ensured if we graduate from post-colonial era where secrecy has been a norm and provision of information exception to the modern era wherein running of the business of the country is conducted in a manner that transparency becomes a norm and secrecy an exception. Therefore, it is solemn responsibility of those running the affairs of the state to create balance between protecting information from disclosure, on justifiable ground through recorded reasons, and, proactively sharing of information in public interest which has hitherto been kept shrouded in the vail of secrecy.

 

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Order on Appeal No.664-10/20 Tahseen Ahmed H. Qureshi Vs Directorate General of Immigration & Passports And Ministry of Interior

The Ministry of Interior is directed to provide certified copy of Policy – Letter No: 4/ 28/91- PAAS (INT) – 1 Dated: 30-11- 1994 issued by the Ministry of Interior, Government of Pakistan.

 

The Respondents are directed to provide information, based on the available record as to whether or not “the Government of Pakistan has been pleased to issue the Pakistani Passports to different persons who are Burmese Muslims, at any time, presently or in past, by the different abroad Embassies, Missions, Consulates of Pakistan or inland Passport offices in Pakistan. Also provide certified copy of the policy pertaining to the renewal of passports issued to Burmese Muslims.

 

 

The Respondents are directed to provide requested information about the “national status of the Pakistani Passport holder (old and new) of Burmese Muslims issued by different abroad Embassies, Missions, Consulates of Pakistan offices in Pakistan or inland Passport under the law/ Policy framed by the Government of Pakistan for them

The Respondent are directed to provide certified copy of policy for blacklisting of the issuance of Pakistani passports.

The Respondents are directed to make arrangements for the classification, if required, of the sensitive parts of the Passport and Visa Manual under Section 7 (f) of the Right of Access to Information Act 2017 and provide certified copy of the Passport and Visa Manual to the Appellant within 20 working days of the receipt of this Order.

 

To the question of the citizen as to whether or not “the Government of Pakistan has been pleased to issue the Pakistani Passports to different persons who are Burmese Muslims, at any time, presently or in past, by the different abroad Embassies, Missions, Consulates of Pakistan or inland Passport offices in Pakistan”, the Respondent has failed to provide even a simple ‘Yes’, or, ‘No’ answer. The Respondent should have provided answer in affirmative or in negative based on policies in this regard.

It is within the realm of reason to expect that matter of issuing passport and their renewal to Burmese Muslims must have been decided as a matter of policy and documents containing these decisions, applicable in the past and present, should have been provided to the citizen.

The birth-pangs, resulting from the emergence of new era of transparency out of the secretive modes of functioning of public bodies, as light seeks to shine on official files, hitherto kept in the dark from the citizens of Pakistan, because of sunshine Article 19-A and the Right of Access to Information Act 2017 is understandable as the old habits die hard. Emerge we shall from the dark days of secrecy to the brightened days of openness and transparency for so is the will of the citizens of Pakistan expressed through their chosen representatives in the shape of sunshine Article 19-A of the Constitution and the Right of Access to Information Act 2017.

 

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Order on Appeal No. 509-08/20 Farhatullah Babar Vs Ministry of Interior

The Ministry of Interior directed to provide the requested information, if available with the Respondent public body or with any of its attached departments, divisions or any of its subordinate office, to the Appellant About “CCTV Camera Footage at public place namely the Government Girls School G-6/1-3 Islamabad showing the kidnapping of journalist Matiullah Jan on July 21, 2020”.

The Ministry of Interior was directed to put the notification of the designated Public Information Officer under Section 9 of the Act on its web site as required under Section 5 (1) (b) of the Act and also put name, designation and contact details of the PIO on its web site as required under Section 5 (1) (h) of the Act and submit compliance report to the commission within 10 working days of the receipt of this order.

It was directed to take immediate steps to proactively share through the web site all categories of information mentioned in Section 5 of the Right of Access to Information Act 2017 and submit the compliance report to the commission in the Template for the Compliance Report-Proactive Disclosure of Information under Section 5 of the Right of Access to Information Act 2017’, as shared in para 15 of this Order, by 15/11/2020.

It was also directed to determine the level of the accessibility of the information proactively published on its web site under Section 5 of the Right of Access to Information Act 2017 with regards to the special needs of the blind, low-vision, physically disabled, speech and hearing impaired and people with other disabilities and submit compliance report to this effect using ‘Template for the Compliance Report for Determining Accessibility Lebel of Web Sites of Public Bodies’, mentioned in para 19 of this Order by 15/11/2020.

The commission is of the view that as considerable time has elapsed since the incident depicted in the requested footage took place, the disclosure of the footage is not going to give any advantage to those involved in the kidnapping incident. In fact, the certified footage may help identify those involved in the criminal act. As such, the disclosure of requested footage is in public interest.

The implementation of Section 5 of the Act can only be ensured if federal public bodies continuously juxtapose categories of information enlisted in section 5 with the information provided on the web sites.

The commission observed that the information proactively published under Section 5 of the Right of Access to Information Act 2017 should be accessible for all citizens, including the blind, low-vision, physically disabled, speech and hearing impaired and people with other disabilities. This commission is of the view that it is about time federal public bodies start taking seriously the accessibility of the web sites as well. As a starting point, the public bodies need to determine the accessibility level of the web sites. The web sites of public bodies should be accessible to level AA of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 (of W3C. A quick reference guide for WCAG2.1 is available at this link: http://www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG21/quickref/


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Order on Appeal No 366-06/20 Naeem Sadiq Vs Ministry of Interior

The Ministry of Interior was directed to provide the following requested                information to the Appellant:

Names of the individuals to whom non-prohibited bore arms licenses were issued and  the number of licenses issued to each individual between 1.1.2008 and31.12.2018.

Total non-prohibited bore arms licenses issued between 01.01.2008 and 31.12.2018.

Names of the individuals to whom prohibited bore arms licenses were issued and the  number of licenses issued to each individual between 01.01.2008 and 31.12.2018

Total prohibited bore arms licenses issued between 01.01.2008 and 31.12.2008.

The Ministry of Interior was directed to put the notification of designated Public Information Officer, (PIO), on its web site as required under Section 5 (1) (b) of the Act, put name, designation and contact details of the PIO on its web site as required under Section 5 (1) (h) of the Act and submit compliance report to the commission within 10 working days of the receipt of this order.

The Ministry of Interior was directed to take immediate steps to proactively share through the  web site all categories of information mentioned in Section 5 of the Right of Access to  Information Act 2017. The Respondent should ensure that its web site is accessible to  all citizens and that its web site complies with international benchmarks set for web  accessibility in Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) developed by the  World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

The compliance report pertaining to proactive disclosure of information and the accessibility of the web site of the Respondent be submitted to the commission by 01/11/2020.

The commission noted that that license to carry weapons is different from general license  like driving. The driving license is right of all citizens who otherwise meet all the  requirements whereas license to carry weapons is exceptional license granted to certain  individuals as a privilege. Therefore, names of the individuals who are granted such  exceptional licenses as a privilege should be made public.

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