Government’s refusal to disclose gifts received by PM Khan recently sparked a debate in Pakistan. The government also challenged the order of the Information Commission regarding sharing this information with citizens.
The development arose when a citizen submitted an application seeking details from the government on foreign gifts received. As a result, the Pakistan Information Commission (PIC) sought details from the PTI-led federal government in response.
The federal government challenged the matter in Islamabad High Court (IHC), arguing that details of the gifts are “classified”.
To clarify, SAPM Dr. Shahbaz Gill tweeted that the government cannot advertise gifts received by the PM of Pakistan from another country nor compare them with that of another country.
ملکی قوانین کے تحت توشہ خانہ میں جمع کروائے جاتے ہیں اور اگر کوئی تحفہ پاس رکھنا مقصود ہو تو قانون کے مطابق اس کے عوض پیسے خزانے میں جمع کروائے جاتے ہیں۔
ماضی میں 15% تک پیسے جمع کروائے جاتے تھے۔ لیکن PTI کی حکومت میں 50% رقم جمع کروائی جاتی ہے
ماضی کی طرح تحائف غائب نہیں ہوتے
— Dr. Shahbaz GiLL (@SHABAZGIL) September 20, 2021
Gill said that releasing lists of gifts and comparing them with those of other countries is inappropriate, especially by Islamic countries with whom Pakistan enjoys brotherly relations.
Moreover, disclosure of such information can create media hype, resulting in unwarranted stories. Such stories then potentially damage Pakistan’s inter-state relations.
Apparently, the justification was not enough for the Opposition. PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz, while keeping up with her “anti-PTI” narrative retweeted a post accusing the PTI government of corruption with its decision to “hide overseas gifts.”
Interestingly, the trend of hiding overseas gifts began during PPP and PML-N eras.
The difference between PPP, PML-N & PTI
Heads of states or officers holding constitutional positions routinely exchange gifts on the eve of a state visit.
According to the gift depository (Toshakhana) rules, gifts 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 list revealing 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 contained the names of President Asif Ali Zardari, former presidents Rafiq Tarar and Pervez Musharraf, former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif, Mir Zafarullah Jamali, and Shaukat Aziz, and a number of top bureaucrats and officials.