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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday ordered the federal government to make public the details of gifts received by former prime minister Imran Khan.

A single bench comprising Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb directed the government to provide the details of gifts received by individuals from the Toshakhana and also ordered that the same be taken back from them.

The bench was hearing the federation’s petition that challenged order of the Pakistan Information Commission (PIC) regarding provision of details of the foreign gifts received by the former prime minister.

The PIC had accepted an application in the matter last year and directed the Cabinet Division to provide the requested information about the gifts received by then prime minister Khan from foreign heads of state, heads of government and other foreign dignitaries; the description/specification of each gift; information about the gifts retained by the prime minister and the Rules under which gifts thus received were retained by him.

Later, the Cabinet Division challenged the PIC order before the IHC, claiming that it was “illegal, (and) without lawful authority”. The then government took the stance that disclosure of any information related to Toshakhana hurts international ties.

During the hearing on Wednesday, Justice Aurangzeb observed that the gifts belonged to the office of prime minister and that state gifts could not be taken home. He also ordered that all the Toshakhana gifts be recovered from the individuals who had taken them home.

He remarked that people come and go, but the Prime Minister’s Office remains, adding that every gift given (to the head of state/government official) belonged to their office, and were not to be taken home.

Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Arshad Kiyani appeared before the court on behalf of the Centre 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 the selling of Toshakhana gifts affects Pakistan’s reputation in the eyes of other countries.

At this, the bench directed the DAG to provide details of the gifts received by the former prime minister. It stated that there is no stay on the PIC’s order and instead, the Cabinet Division is bound to provide the details.

Justice Aurangzeb noted that there is nothing wrong in keeping the gifts for themselves, after paying for them, but only if this is done in a limited manner.

He directed that a policy be formulated to ensure that the gifts received by the head of the state would be deposited in the treasury.

He remarked that gifts are not only received, but also 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.

He objected to the policy under which a certain percentage of the gift’s value is paid and the gift in question taken home. He added that such a policy means there is a sale of gifts.

The judge said there should not have been a policy to pay a percentage of the actual price and take the gift home. He stated that all the state gifts should be kept at a public place.

Justice Aurangzeb also underscored the need for a new policy under which all the state gifts are submitted to the national kitty.

In response to the DAG’s request, the bench allowed him to get orders from the authorities, but maintained that the PIC’s directive to provide the desired details to the complainant should be followed in the meantime. The bench later adjourned the hearing for two weeks.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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