The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday directed the quarters concerned to provide an explanation for the delay in releasing the details of Toshakhana gifts obtained since 1947 by January 19.
Justice Asim Hafeez heard a plea seeking direction to authorities concerned to provide all details of the gift repository including those of dignitaries, bureaucrats, and other officials. During the proceedings, Section Officer Nida Rehman appeared before the court contending that a committee has been constituted to examine which details could be provided. However, Justice Hafeez inquired why the details are being hidden when everything has been made public. Explanations are due if details of Toshakhana cannot be provided, he further remarked.
Previously, the law officer representing the federal government had implored the court that the details of the gifts of Toshakhana are secret details that could not be provided. Justice Hafeez had, however, observed that when a person buys a gift from Toshakhana they had to mention them in tax returns. So how could it be kept a secret when details are mentioned in the tax returns. The judge had directed the federal government’s lawyer to submit details before the court by January 16 (today) and said the court will decide whether or not the details are secret.
Meanwhile, the petitioner’s counsel advocate Azhar Siddique had implored the court that there are no details available to provide about those who obtained the gifts from the Toshakhana, under which mechanism the prices of gifts were determined and how much money was deposited in the national exchequer. He also requested the court to direct the concerned quarters to make all details of the gifts public.
The petition was filed by Munir Ahmed through senior advocate Azhar Siddique. Advocate Azhar Siddique had implored in the petition that the Islamabad High Court on April 20, 2022, directed the cabinet to disclose all information and specifications in relation to all the gifts received by the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, during his tenure in office.
Following this order, the petitioner sought information about all the gifts bought, withdrawn or taken away by the prime ministers and presidents of Pakistan since 1947 till date. Additionally, the petitioner had also sought information with respect to the market value of the gift (prevalent at that time), the assessed value of the gift, and the amount paid by the receivers (presidents and prime ministers).
He submitted that the exercise would ensure that the citizens have complete access to the entire record of Toshakhana which will aid the process of fairness, accountability and transparency. Article 19 (A) of the Constitution has empowered the citizens of Pakistan by making access to information a justiciable right of the people rather than being largesse bestowed by the State at its whim, the petition had contended.
All information that can be of any public importance must be made available to the general public, the petitioner had stressed. He implored that details of Toshakhana Gifts received under the premiership of Imran Khan have so far been disclosed by the Cabinet Division but to the extent, former Prime Ministers Mian Nawaz Sharif, Yousaf Raza Gillani and Asif Ali Zardari (Ex-President of Pakistan) have never been disclosed by the Cabinet Division which is purely an act of malafide.