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EditorialToshakhana: another Pandora’s Box opens

Toshakhana: another Pandora’s Box opens

There seems to be no end to the Toshakhana saga, and it is getting interesting with every passing day.

A year ago, the majority of the people had never heard of the word Toshakhana, but now it has become the talk of the town.

Tosha-khana is a department, which falls under the administrative control of the Cabinet Division, that stores gifts given to rulers, legislators, bureaucrats and other officials by heads of various governments and states.

After the government disclosed details of the gifts and their recipients for the period 2002 to 2022, Pandora’s box appears to have opened.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has even demanded that details of generals and judges who received gifts should also be disclosed.

And now, the Lahore High Court (LHC), while hearing a petition seeking to make Toshakhana records public, has ordered the government to provide records of Toshakhana gifts received by public office holders from foreign governments and dignitaries since 1947 in whatever form there have.

On the other hand, the courts of Additional District and Sessions Judge Zafar Iqbal and Senior Civil Judge Rana Mujahid Rahim issued non-bailable warrants for Imran Khan in the Toshakhana and judge threatening cases, respectively, and ordered the police to present him before the courts on March 18 and March 21.

According to documents for the period between 2002 to 2022, several former and present rulers and other dignitaries received gifts. These include presidents, prime ministers, federal cabinet members and bureaucrats during the last two decades. These details are available on the website of the Cabinet Division.

Among the beneficiaries were President Dr Arif Alvi, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, former prime ministers Zafarullah Khan Jamali, Shaukat Aziz, Nawaz Sharif, Yousuf Raza Gilani, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Imran Khan, ex-president Asif Ali Zardari, former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, Khursheed Kasuri, Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Jehangir Tarin and Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

As per details, most of the gifts were retained by these personalities free of cost except for a few who deposited some money.

Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif were recipients of bulletproof vehicles, which they retained after paying some amount to the Toshakhana.

Pervez Musharraf and Shaukat Aziz kept many foreign gifts without paying a penny whereas Sheikh Rashid Ahmed deposited a meagre Rs3,420 to retain gifts, which included two gold coins.

The former prime minister and PTI Chairman Imran Khan and his spouse received wristwatches, jewellery and other items.

The documents further revealed that Asif Ali Zardari received a bulletproof BMW when he was president on January 26, 2009.

The vehicle was worth Rs27.3 million, which Mr Zardari kept for himself after paying around Rs4 million. He also retained wristwatches worth over Rs1 million after paying nominal amounts. Similarly, Nawaz Sharif received a Mercedes Benz on April 20, 2008, which was worth Rs 4.25 million. He paid Rs636,000 to the Toshakhana and kept the vehicle.

Former prime minister Imran Khan received five wristwatches, which he retained after paying some amount. He had also been gifted a Graff wristwatch valued at Rs85 million, cufflinks worth Rs5.6 million, a pen valued at Rs1.5 million and a ring worth Rs8.75 million, which he retained after paying Rs20 million.

Similarly, he received Rolex watches worth Rs1.5 million and Rs900,000, which he retained after depositing Rs294,000 and Rs338,600, respectively. The second amount also included payments for some other items.

There were more watches and several other gifts, including a necklace and bracelet, given to him and his wife Bushra Bibi, which they kept after depositing some amount with the Toshakhana.

Similarly, other dignitaries, including President Alvi and his wife, retained gifts after payment of some money.

These details reveal one thing – the issue is not something recent.

Ever since Toshakhana was set up in 1974, our rulers and civil servants have been keeping gifts for themselves despite rules. This just shows that the rules framed for the purpose were never heeded.

What is required is strict implementation of the rules and making the process transparent. Just like our legislators are supposed to provide details of their assets in the parliament every year, details of the gifts in the Toshakhana and the officials who retained them after depositing their costs should be disclosed at an appropriate forum.

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