LHC orders release of Toshakhana record from 1990-2001

Court has also directed to share the source of gift received by a government functionary

Shahid Hussain
— Geo.tv/File
— Geo.tv/File

LAHORE: Justice Asim Hafeez of the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Wednesday ordered the government to make the complete record of Toshakhana from 1990 to 2001 public despite the government’s opposition.

The high court directed the authorities to release all the records, saying nothing could be hidden from public view. “Also share the name of the friendly country who gifted the items,” the court ordered.

The federal government objected to sharing the source of a gift and said it would challenge the verdict. To this, Justice Asim Hafeez said it is your right to file a challenge.

“No one can retain the gift without making payment,” the order stated.

The directives from the high court came on a petition of citizen Munir Hafeez who had sought complete details of the gifts received by political rulers and bureaucrats from foreign dignitaries since the creation of Pakistan.

Earlier this month, the federal government released the Toshakhana record from 2002 onwards, exposing the political leadership of the country that benefitted from the depository. 

The government had maintained that releasing all the records may harm Pakistan's relations with friendly countries, however, the court ignored these warnings and ordered to declassify records.

Last week, the court ordered the presentation of the Toshakhana record prior to 2002 in any format available, adding that it would pass appropriate orders after reviewing the record.

New Toshakahana policy

Under the new Toshakhana policy for all government functionaries including the ruling political elite, parliamentarians, judges, generals and bureaucrats to declare and deposit all gifts received by them in Toshkhana within 30 days of receipt of gifts otherwise punitive action will be taken against the violator.

The policy notified on March 8, 2023, abolishes the previous rules which allowed the government functionaries to retain any gift by paying 50% of the price assessed. 

Now any gift exceeding US$ 300 shall straightaway become Toshakhana property while gifts valued up to US$ 300 can be retained by the recipient without any discount on the payment of assessed market value. 

This exemption shall, however, not be available in the case of antiques and gifts of intrinsic historical value. All such gifts shall be properly catalogued and displayed at prominent buildings owned by the government.

The recipients, however, can retain gifts of perishable items without reporting or depositing them in Toshakhana. 

To ensure that every gift received is reported and deposited in Toshakhana, the policy envisages that the chief of protocol, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or his representative attached to a visiting dignitary or a foreign delegation, shall be responsible to supply the list of the gifts received, together with names of the recipients, to the Cabinet Division.