Wednesday, April 20, 2022
ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court's (IHC) Justice Mian Gul Hassan on Wednesday observed the Toshakhana gifts should be retrieved from the individuals who had taken them home.
"People come and go but the Office of the Prime Minister remains at the same place. Every gift given [to the head of the state/government official] belongs to their office, not to be taken home," Justice Hassan remarked during the hearing of Cabinet Division's petition challenging the Information Commission's orders regarding the Toshakhana details.
The Information Commission had ordered the provision of Toshakhana gifts' details to the complainant. However, the Cabinet Division maintained that the exchange of gifts between the heads of the states is a reflection of inter-state relations and revealing the details of these gifts can affect these relations.
At the outset of the hearing, Deputy Attorney-General Arshad Kiyani appeared before the court on the Centre's behalf and sought an extension for receiving directives from the authorities concerned.
Advocate Rana Abid raised an objection over the Cabinet Division's plea, asking how the matter pertaining to selling the Toshakhana gifts affect Pakistan's reputation in the eyes of other countries.
At this, court said details of the gifts received by former prime minister Imran Khan should be released.
The court remarked that there is no stay on the Information Commission's order [...] instead, the Cabinet Division is bound to provide details.
Justice Hassan noted that there is nothing wrong in keeping the gifts for themselves after paying for it, but only if it is done to a limited extent.
He directed to make a policy to ensure that the gifts received by the head of the state will only be deposited in the treasury.
"The gifts are not only received, but given to the heads of other countries with the money collected through people's taxes. Therefore, the incoming gifts should be kept as public property," Justice Hassan remarked.
He objected that the policy to pay a certain percentage of the gift's value and take it home shouldn't have been there.
"Such a policy means there is a sale of gifts."
Responding to Kiyani's request, the court allowed him to get orders from the authorities but still follow the Information Commission's directive to provide the desired details to the complainant in the meantime.
Ex-prime minister Imran Khan on Monday responded to the Toshakana controversy and said they were his gifts, so it was his choice whether to keep them or not.
"Mera tohfa, meri marzi [my gift, my choice]," the PTI chairman, who became the first prime minister to be ousted through the no-trust vote, told reporters during an informal conversation.
The issue came to light last week when Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that Imran Khan, during his tenure, sold Toshakhana gifts in Dubai worth Rs140 million.
According to reports, the former premier received 58 gifts worth more than Rs140 million from the world leaders during his three-and-a-half-year stint and retained all of them either by paying a negligible amount or even without any payment.