Pakistani politics sees some of the strangest scenarios. When a politician is in power he can literally get away with murder even if it is in front of a National TV audience but when he is out of power he can be accused of most bizarre things. Once a Pakistani politician Zahoor Elahi was accused of stealing a buffalo. Not just a random accusation but a first information report (FIR) was registered against him in a police precinct. It’s the nature of the beast that is Pakistani politics. Recently Imran Khan has been ousted from power via a vote of no confidence in Pakistan. After that a lot of hullabaloo has been created by the present govt. the accusation of Imran Khan looting the Toshakhana, taking away gifts and selling them in the market. Without being biased let’s put up the facts for a rational analysis to reach some conclusion.
First of all let me dispel some confusion that has arisen between two words, intentionally or unintentionally, Toshakhana and Baitul Maal. It seems as if these two words are interchangeable & with the same meaning. Toshakhana is a Persian word later also infiltrating into Sanskrit meaning treasure house and being used as where princely or state gifts are kept. Pakistan, India even Bangladesh have Toshalkhanas with almost similar usage & similar rules and regulations. Baitul Maal is an Arabic word meaning house of wealth or house of money with the usage being government treasury.
Understanding the matter better
The content of Toshakhana is related to the person who receives the gift & is given the option of either buying the gift or foregoing it in accordance with the rules & regulations. The content of Bailtul Maal belongs to the government & can not be requisitioned without a lawful spending plan for the public. So basically, gifts from toshakaha can be legally & lawfully obtained for personal use or disposal while nothing can be taken from Baitul Maal for personal use or personal disposal.
Contrary to the public perception that these gifts for Toshakhana are limited to head of states or just top-ranking personnel, the list includes anyone receiving a state gift while touring, interacting, or coordinating with foreign state delegations. There is no secrecy attached with the gift reporting procedure.
In the case of visitors, the Chief protocol officer from foreign services and in the case of touring other countries the Ambassador or head of mission sends in the detail via foreign services to the cabinet division. It boggles the mind & just highlights the complete deviation from rules and regulations in Pakistan that it is made into a cloak and dagger issue. If it’s a gift of cash for any government employee then it must be deposited to the Government treasury and the challan deposited to In-charge Toshakhana.
There is a panel that categorizes the gifts as antique or with emotional or historical values to be retained and displayed in the Toshakhana. Gifts which are categorized as such are not offered to the recipients. The rest of the gifts are offered to the recipients. Again there is a panel that carries out an evaluation of the gifts. The panelist are paid 5 % of the gift amount or Rs 2000 whichever are the less as the appraising price. Then the recipients are asked to pay 50 % ( before 2018 it was 15 %) of the appraised price and take away the gift within four months’ time. After lapsing for four months the gift becomes the property of Toshakhana.
Toshakhana disposes of the gift (sells it) and deposits the amount in one account designated for this purpose and the amount goes to the government treasury. According to the Toshakhana rules gifts which are offered for buying by the recipients are deemed to be not historically emotional or with antique values and are disposed of in the open market. Just as a side note any vehicles received as gifts shall not be offered to the recipients for buying, it becomes a property of the Government who transfers it and places the vehicle in the Central pool of cars to be used for state occasions and such as deemed fit by the cabinet division.
Thus it is clear that if policies are followed no corruption can take place while dealing with Toshakhana. Once the recipient, whoever it may be Imran Khan or Nawaz Sharif or Asif Zardari or XYZ buys the gift they have every right to eat it, throw it away or sell it in the open market. Note any gift that is offered to the recipient will be sold anyway if they don’t buy it. Because if it is an antique or of historical value or emotional value it will not be offered to the recipients. There is just one-way corruption can be done in Toshakhana which is to subvert the process, get the gifts under appraised & then buy them.
What’s the way forward?
There is a very proper process in place and a number of highly placed government servants are involved. We can actually take out the list of toshakhana gifts given to recipients in, let’s say last 25 years, check out the appraised value & get it reappraised keeping the timeline in mind, if the difference is too great, prosecute the people who appraised it and recover the money from the recipients. I also remember one car that was given away. I really failed to follow which rules and regulations were followed as vehicles are not offered to the recipients.
If someone has taken away a gift given to him or her without reporting it, that’s misappropriation and corruption. Once the gift is reported in Toshakhana it can not go out without a process. If that process is not broken then there is no corruption. Politicians of the last few governments making waves about gifts from toshakhana are just catering to their ill informed followers who are going to swallow it. It’s just an effort to make some political capital out of it by making noise which is totally nonsense.
Plus the contention why the gift was sold let me point out that there is a panel that separates those gifts which have more intrinsic value emotional historical or something else and does not offer it to the recipient. Nothing like this bullshit ever happens in India or Bangladesh because their politicians have some sense & some modicum of ethical values, we have none.
The author has worked for Unilever for 25 years. He is a professional translator/interpreter of five languages and is also a certified computer trainer. He is currently living in Virginia, USA. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.