Secret fund: SC orders publication of partial information ministry list

List gives details of Rs178m, out of a total Rs268 million.

Mudassir Raja April 23, 2013


The Supreme Court on Monday ordered the publication of a list that details the amounts paid to journalists and companies under the heading of the secret fund. The current list gives the details of only Rs178 million out of the Rs268 million of the ministry’s secret fund. The rest of the expenditures will be revealed by the court in a list circulated at a later date.

The bench headed by Justice Jawwad S Khawaja, and comprising Justice Khilji Arif Hussain and Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan then ordered the audit of the fund details. The court asked a senior functionary under the Auditor General of Pakistan to appear in the court and explain how long it would take to carry out an audit of the total Rs268 million spent by the ministry under different heads of the secret fund. The Director of the Ministry of Information, Tahir Hassan, had confirmed to the bench that the money spent was never audited.

The next hearing is scheduled for Thursday, April 25.

On Monday, Advocate Raja Aamir Abbas representing the ministry along with an official of the ministry presented two lists detailing the use of the secret funds. Raja said that the first list contains 283 items and that the ministry has no objection on making it public. The court ordered that these items be published on the websites of Pemra and the Supreme Court.

Raja claimed that the other file contains 174 items and that the ministry has the privilege to keep them secret. Replying to a question from the court, he said that some of the expenses in this list relate to defence and national security.

The director of the ministry of information Tahir Hasan also said that a media campaign was run during the Swat operation and money was paid to persons who provided information about the FM radio station of Maulvi Fazlullah, the leader of the Swat Taliban.

Tahir Hasan also said that money was paid to those who wrote against Taliban and articles were published with pseudo names.

Justice Jawwad observed that it was mandatory under the constitution to disclose the expenses of all public funds. He said that hiring an informer is one thing but spending money on publicity is quite another. If the money is spent on publicity, people have the right to know about it, he said.

However the counsel to the ministry of information failed to cite any laws that supported his claim of confidentiality and privilege to the three-judge bench.

Hamid Mir, who is one of the petitioners, said that those who write for money are called patriots while those who do not accept money are said not to be patriotic. Justice Jawwad said that it was not the privilege of the ministry of information to bestow people with certificates of patriotism. If anyone was writing for money, then their identity should be revealed.

Justice Jawwad said that in the memo case there was a request to keep expenses of $2 million incurred by the Pakistani embassy in Washington a secret, but it was not granted.  He said that the court was not interested in revealing details that impinged on national security, but that the audit should be conducted as it is mandatory.

The Supreme Court order of yesterday and the list are published on the SC website The list details the use of the secret funds and the individuals who received the money.

Pemra has also published all these details on its website

Published in The Express Tribune, April 23rd, 2013.


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