The refusal of the government to reveal the gifts received by Prime Minister Imran Khan has sparked a debate in Pakistan. The government challenged the order of the Pakistan Information Commission in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) arguing the details of the gifts are “classified”.
The recent development regarding the order of PIC came when a citizen submitted an application seeking the details from the government on the foreign gifts received.
In clarification of the refusal by the government, the SAPM Dr. Shahbaz Gill tweeted that the government could not advertise gifts received from a foreign country nor can compare them with another country.
The justification was not welcomed by the Opposition. PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz retweeted a post accusing the PTI government of corruption with its decision to “hide overseas gifts.”
The culture of foreign gifts
Heads of states or officers holding constitutional positions routinely exchange gifts on the eve of a state visit.
According to the rules of the gift depository – traditionally referred to as Toshakhana, gifts received by the state representatives will remain the property of the state unless sold at an open auction. Rules allow officials to retain gifts with a market value of less than Rs10,000 without paying anything.
In this regard, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi submitted items gifted to him during his 2019 visit to Saudi Arabia to Toshakhana for assessment. Toshakhana rules state that these gifts remain the property of the state unless sold at an open auction.
On the other hand, reports alleged that past leaders paid as little as 15 percent of the assessed value of a gift.
In 2019 Senate Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat received a report which revealed that only 447 of the 3,486 gifts received by state representatives during foreign visits were deposited in the gift depository. The rest were retained by the receivers after paying a meager amount or free of cost.
The list had the names of former Presidents Asif Ali Zardari, Rafiq Tarar and Pervez Musharraf, former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif, Mir Zafarullah Jamali, and Shaukat Aziz, and a number of other top bureaucrats and officials.