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Wednesday June 19, 2024

PIC received most complaints against defence ministry

By Ansar Abbasi
February 12, 2022
PIC received most complaints against defence ministry

ISLAMABAD: In its three years’ performance report, the Pakistan Information Commission (PIC) has disclosed it has received the highest number of appeals (complaints) against the Ministry of Defence, followed by the law ministry, the Supreme Court and Islamabad High Court.

The report covering the period Nov 18, 2018, to Dec 15, 2021 says that a total of 141 appeals have been received against the Defence Ministry and its attached departments followed by the Ministry of Law and Justice (44); Supreme Court of Pakistan and Islamabad High Court (42); the Ministry of Finance (37); Federal Board of Revenue and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (34 each); CDA (33); National Accountability Bureau and the Ministry of Education and Professional Training (32 each) and FIA (31).

The report adds that 30 appeals were filed against the Ministry of Interior and Cabinet Division each and 27 appeals were filed against each of NADRA, ECP and the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony. Twenty-five appeals were filed against the Senate Secretariat, 24 against the Establishment Division and 23 against the Ministry of Human Rights and the Ministry of Railways. Twenty-two appeals were filed against the Higher Education Commission and 21 each against the Prime Minister's Secretariat and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The commission has issued a total of 395 detailed orders on the appeals filed by citizens against federal public bodies for delaying or unlawfully denying access to information. The highest number of orders, 33, was issued against the Ministry of Defence and its attached departments. Eleven orders were issued against Ministry of Railways and CDA each, followed by nine against each of FBR, SNGPL, and NBP whereas eight were issued against FIA, NADRA, Cabinet Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Law and Justice.

Seven orders were issued against the Ministry of Interior, followed by 6 each against the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations & Coordination, National Accountability Bureau, National Assembly Secretariat, ECP, and Metropolitan Corporation. Five orders were issued against each of LESCO, PESCO, MEPCO, NHA, and Islamabad Model Colleges, followed by four each against EOBI, HEC, the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training, the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony, Federal Employees Housing Cooperative Society, the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Climate Change.

So far, the report adds, a total of 30 orders of the commission have been challenged by federal public bodies in high courts. Of these, five orders of the commission have already been upheld whereas the remaining are pending. None of the orders of the commission has been reversed by any of the high court. So far, the Registrar, Supreme Court of Pakistan, Cabinet Division, Establishment Division, PTCL, ECP, Office of the President, SNGPL, the Ministry of Law and Justice, Pakistan Housing Authority Foundation, and NTDC have challenged orders of the commission in the high court.

Instead of implementing the order of the commission or challenging in Islamabad High Court, as required under the Act, the Senate Secretariat sent a letter to the commission stating that “Chairman Senate is authorized to declare any, or, all records of the Senate Secretariat as classified”. The information requested from the Senate Secretariat pertained to the total number of sanctioned and vacant posts, quota for the disabled, etc. which the commission declared to be public information under the Right of Access to Information

Act 2017.

The report laments that citizens are finding it difficult to get information from federal public bodies, be it constitutional bodies, federal ministries, commissions, educational institutions, electric supply companies, regulatory bodies, or different commissions. Federal public bodies provide information as an exception when citizens file information requests under the Act and not as a rule even when requested information is simple and does not need to be contested on any legitimate grounds.

According to the PIC, the civil servants have not realised the significance of transparent functioning of federal ministries concerning good governance in the country. Citizens filed a total of 713 appeals against 40 federal ministries and the commission issued a total of 140 orders.

The PIC analysis of the appeals filed by citizens reveals that most of the requests pertained to the inquiry reports against officials, certified copies of the merit lists of candidates and recruitment criteria, contracts signed by public bodies to hire services of sanitary workers and security guards through third-party contractors, number of FIRs filed under different provisions of cyberlaw and number of convictions, the total number of sanctioned and vacant posts in different public bodies and the quota for the disabled and transgender persons.

Citizens have also filed appeals to get access to finalised audit paras and audit reports of public bodies, information about legislative bills laid in the Parliament, information about the publications of the asset details submitted by parliamentarians to the Election Commission of Pakistan, information available with NADRA about the total number of CNICs issued to women, and the total number of transgender persons and people with disabilities in the country, details of assets of judges and officers and salaries, perks, privileges, and benefits of judges, civil and military officers.