- The authorities are about to introduce a new policy regarding Toshakhana, which will resolve all issues, say sources.
- Under new policy, everything regarding gifts and their recipients will be made available to the general public.
- An advocate in Islamabad had requested to seek details about all gifts received by the premiers and presidents of Pakistan since 1947.
ISLAMABAD: Following a heated debate and allegations between the PTI and the ruling PML-N over the foreign gifts received by the premiers, the government has decided to introduce a new policy on Toshakhana.
The new policy regarding Toshakhana is in the making and will be introduced in a month after which everything regarding gifts and their recipients will be made available to the general public, The News reported.
A senior official in the federal cabinet, on the condition of anonymity, said that authorities are about to introduce the new policy regarding Toshakhana, which will resolve all issues.
The government of Pakistan recently denied access to information regarding Toshakhana gifts to an applicant, claiming that the requested detail is ‘classified’. On April 28, the government issued a letter in response to a request regarding disclosure of information pertaining to gifts received by top leaders of Pakistan since 1947. In response to the request of Abuzar Salman Khan Niazi, the Cabinet Division wrote: “The requested information is classified and cannot be provided as per Clause-7 (f&g) and Clause 16 1(a) (ii) of the Rights of Access to Information Act 2017.’
Niazi, an advocate in Islamabad, had requested to seek details about all gifts received by the prime ministers and presidents of Pakistan since 1947. It was also requested that the market value of the gifts (prevalent at that time), assessed value of the gifts and amount paid by the recipients (presidents and prime ministers) be provided.
“A new transparent and fair policy is being developed in line with international best practices, which will be approved by the cabinet in about a month. The new policy will resolve all issues and reveal information regarding Toshakhana gifts and their recipients to all,” said a source.
The clauses mentioned in the response letter issued by the government state: “The minister in-charge of the federal government will have to record reasons as to why the harm from disclosure of information outweighs public interest and further that information pertaining to allegation of corruption and violation of human rights shall not be excluded”.
In October last, the Pakistan Information Commission, accepting a request, directed the Cabinet Division to provide the requested information about gifts received by then premier Imran Khan from foreign heads of states, heads of governments and other foreign dignitaries ‘description/specification of each gift, information about gifts retained by the prime minister and the rules under which the gifts were retained by him’. The Cabinet Division opposed the request, taking the stance before the PIC that this matter did not fall within the ambit of the Right of Access to Information Act 2017. Referring to a letter dated April 4, 1993, that had declared the details of Toshakhana classified, it had argued that the information could not be requisitioned under the Act.
Subsequently, the Cabinet Division challenged the order in a petition before the IHC in the same month, claiming that the PIC order was ‘illegal and without lawful authority’.
The Islamabad High Court also raised questions and grilled former government over reluctance to disclose details of gifts received by Imran Khan. Justice Mian Gul Hassan Aurangzeb inquired from a government representative during the hearing why the restriction on making details public was applied to every gift? “What is the harm in making it public if some country has given a necklace as a gift?” Justice Aurangzeb questioned. “Why is the government facing embarrassment by not disclosing gifts received from other countries?” He said gifts received by rulers belonged to the nation and not to them, asking whether public officeholders would even receive those gifts if the public office did not exist.
The then opposition and today’s government unfolded gifts retained by Imran Khan as soon as it came to power. In the very first week of holding the PMO of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Shehbaz Sharif said Imran Khan took gifts worth Rs 140 million from Toshakhana and sold them in Dubai.
A couple of days after this, all information regarding gifts received by Imran Khan and his spouse were revealed to the national media.
In response to this, Imran Khan said he retained gifts by making payments according to the law and it was his decision as they were his gifts.
Established in 1974, Toshakhana is a department under the administrative control of the Cabinet Division and stores precious gifts given to rulers, parliamentarians, bureaucrats and officials by heads of other governments and states and foreign dignitaries as a goodwill gesture. It has valuables ranging from bulletproof cars, gold-plated souvenirs and expensive paintings to watches, ornaments, rugs and swords.