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Not your marzi: Islamabad HC has a message for Imran Khan on Toshakhana gifts

Former ‘kaptaan’ Imran Khan might think it's 'his tohfa, his marzi', but the Islamabad HC and PMLN ministers aren't convinced.

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New Delhi: With Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s admission that the country is ‘drowning in debt’, Imran Khan now has to explain what he did with the Toshakhana gifts. The former, ousted-prime minister, after being accused of selling off State gifts, said: “Mera tohfa, meri marzi”. But the Islamabad High Court isn’t convinced. It said that gifts given to the government officials by the foreign governments belong to the State of Pakistan and not some individuals.

“These gifts are not meant for taking home,” Justice Mian Gul Hassan Aurangzeb said, adding that they should be recovered if someone had taken them home.

PM Sharif had earlier accused Khan of selling expensive gifts from foreign dignitaries worth PKR 140 million, including a wristwatch from Saudi Arabia, in Dubai, Dawn had reported.

But the former ‘kaptaan’ wouldn’t back down. Despite Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s attempts to hide the details of gifts received by him from foreign heads of States, and deposited with the Toshakhana, Khan said they were his gifts and he could sell them if he wanted to.

According to The Express Tribune, the Islamabad High Court Wednesday ordered the federal government to make public the details of gifts received by Imran Khan during his tenure. It remarked that there should not be any policy of buying these State gifts after paying a meagre sum. “Such a policy means that these gifts are on sale,” the judge added.

The former PM is said to have received 58 gifts worth more than PKR 140 million from different world leaders during his three-and-a-half-year rule and retained all of them either by paying a negligible amount or without any payment. However, former PM Imran Khan refuted the allegations, saying whatever he took from the treasury was on record.

“I deposited a gift given by a president at my residence (in Toshakhana). Whatever I took from Toshakana is on record. I purchased the gifts after paying 50 per cent of the cost,” The News International quoted him saying. Imran Khan also pointed out that the Pakistan Army officials get plots in (Defence Housing Authority) DHA, but they are never questioned.

Pakistani journalist Asad Ali Toor shared the ‘exclusive’ details of the official records of gifts that Imran Khan received during his tenure. The tweet has the images of documents with the names of items, date of receipt, their value and how much Imran Khan paid for each and how many he retained for free. The document titled ‘Gifts presented to Mr. Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan from 01-09-2018 to 31-12-2021’, enlisted 58 items out of which he kept 13 with a retainer and 43 items that he kept for free. It includes Mont Blanc pens, table mats, Samsonite bags and Rolex watches.

Also Read: Ousted PM Imran Khan back on streets, warns he’ll be ‘even more dangerous’

Criticism of Imran Khan’s ‘insensitivity’

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) Central Vice-President Maryam Nawaz Sharif slammed Imran Khan saying nobody could claim State gifts on their own.

“Imran Khan has sold the gifts he received from other countries. Caliph Hazrat Umar (companion of Prophet Muhammad PBUH) was held accountable for his shirt and robe and you (Imran Khan), on the other hand, looted foreign gifts from Toshakhana and you are talking of setting up a state of Madina? How can a person (Khan) be this insensitive, deaf, dumb and blind?” she asked.

President of opposition alliance Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) Maulana Fazlur Rehman called the reports of Imran Khan selling a precious watch he had received from Saudi crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman, “shameful”. 

Also Read: PTI rebel accuses Imran Khan of attempting to sack Bajwa. Pakistanis say ‘go away’, Liaquat

Pakistan’s palace of controversy

Pakistan’s Toshakhana has been at the centre of many such controversies throughout the years.

In 2014, an investigative journalist tried to enquire about the details of gifts Muhammad Mian Soomro received during his stint as acting president using the Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002 and was denied information. Five years later, PTI Member of National Assembly Uzma Riaz asked if her party’s government had any intention to conduct an audit of the inventory of gifts/items kept at Toshakhana but was denied information on the grounds that it was classified.

A major controversy broke out in 2020 when the government approached the IHC against Pakistan Information Commission (PIC) decision to make public details of gifts given to Imran Khan by foreign heads of States and others.

According to The News report, the federal government challenged the matter, arguing that details of the gifts received by the prime minister were designated as “classified”. And that disclosures about the gift exchanges could trigger unnecessary media hype, possibly damaging Pakistan’s relations with other countries.

In fact, on 9 September 2020, an accountability court in Islamabad indicted former president Asif Ali Zardari and ex-prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Yousuf Raza Gilani in a case of ‘misusing’ official gifts by foreign heads of States.

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