IHC orders release of PTI helicopter usage details to citizen

CJ Minallah upholds Information Commission's decision, says 'citizens have right to know where their money is spent'

Our Correspondent September 05, 2022


The Islamabad High Court (IHC) directed the relevant authorities on Monday to provide the details of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) leaders’ travel expenses in a government helicopter.

A citizen had moved the court seeking information on a government helicopter used to fly in the PTI’s prime ministerial candidates for Azad Kashmir for an interview with the party head and then premier Imran Khan.

During the proceedings today the IHC upheld the Information Commission’s decision, dismissing the federal appeal, and ordered the government to provide details of the helicopter travel expenses to the citizen.

“The citizen wants to know where the prime minister’s helicopter was used,” IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah observed.

However, in a surprise move, the coalition government appointed Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Arshad Mehmood Kayani defended the PTI’s use of the helicopter.

DAG Kayani argued that the information was sensitive as it was related to defence and could therefore, not be provided to the citizen.

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However, CJ Minallah remarked that a citizen is entitled to request information related to public funds as per law and that “the information being sought is not related to defence”.

“If I am using a helicopter, how can it be related to defence?” Justice Minallah questioned as he observed that the citizen’s plea was merely related to the Prime Minister’s Secretariat and therefore had a “right to know where public funds were being spent”.

“It is an effective means to accountability,” the court observed, “regardless of whose helicopter it is, if it is used for someone’s family members then it is a misuse [of the resource]. If the defence helicopter is used for a purpose other than defence, then it is an abuse of power”.

Citing Article 19A, CJ Manullah remarked that citizens have the right to know where their money is being spent. “If the helicopter is misused, those responsible are accountable to the public. If the government does not bring such petitions before the court, you are accountable to the people.”

PTI chief Imran Khan's helicopter trips to and from Bani Gala have previously also sparked heavy criticism, with the actual cost being much more than what the PTI was claimed, according to BBC Urdu.

Before coming into power, the National Accountability Bureau had also summoned PTI Chairman Imran Khan in a case pertaining to misuse of provincial government helicopters.


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