WAF Files RTI Request Seeking Disclosure Of Assets By Superior Judiciary, Armed Forces
Members of the Women’s Action Forum (WAF) and other public-spirited citizens have exercised their democratic, legal and constitutional Right to Information (RTI) as enshrined under Article 19-A of the Constitution of Pakistan, and requested the disclosure of information of high-level state officials.
In a statement, it said that it has sought information of the following public officers: Chief Justice and judges of the Supreme Court; Chief Justices and judges of the Lahore High Court, Sindh High Court, Balochistan High Court, Peshawar High Court and Islamabad High Court; Chief of Army Staff and all Lt Generals, Major Generals and Brigadiers of the armed forces; Air Chief Marshal, Air Marshals, Air Vice Marshals, and Commodores of the Airforce; and Admiral, Vice Admiral, Rear Admirals, and Commodores of the Navy.
WAF has asked for the disclosure of:
1. Their income and assets and the income and assets of their spouses and children
2. Their perks and privileges
3. Their Pension and postretirement benefits
4. Income Tax paid by them during the financial years 2017-18, 2018-19 & 2019-20
5.Plots allotted in any scheme administered by the government or a state owned or controlled statutory body, foundation, company or agency received by them during the last five years.
The RTI requests have been filed under the Federal and Provincial RTI laws, addressed to public information officers, registrars and Chief Justices of the respective HCs and SC, and secretary law division and defense.
WAF and pro-democracy citizens have requested this information in the public and national interest of Pakistan, and it is our duty as citizens to do so. We have filed these RTIs because this is the first lawful avenue available to us after which we will pursue further legal recourse, if needed.
On June 19, 2020 the Supreme Court, through short order in CP No. 17/2019 Justice Qazi Faez Isa v Federation of Pakistan, has effectively declared that financial matters of judges, their spouse and children (dependent or otherwise) are matters of public importance. Although, this order has caused some concern within the legal community and civil society, since this is now the legal standard that the SC itself has set, we think this is a very opportune time to extend the principle of pecuniary transparency to all senior state officials without discrimination.
WAF believes the requirement of declaring joint assets should not be restricted to elected parliamentarians or one judge only, but must be applied across the board to all senior public officials across state offices.
People’s interests lie in safeguarding the Constitution, the fundamental and equal rights of all citizens and the separation of state powers. All principles, rights and rewards must be legally specified and applied and awarded in a transparent manner as acceptable to the citizenry of Pakistan.
In order to ensure that justice prevails and history bears testament to state accountability, no head or senior officials of state institutions should be exempted from such inquiry and the information we seek must be fully accurate, freely available and not withheld under any pretext. Under the federal law, information must be provided within 10 days of receipt of request. Under the respective provincial laws, 21 in Balochistan, 15 days in Sindh, 14 days in Punjab, and 10 days in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Public and national interest require that this information be disclosed to affirm public faith in state institutions so the citizenry has reason to believe that the accountability agenda in today’s Pakistan is not selective, and that a uniform standard exists and is applicable to all, without fear or favour.
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