In a setback to Imran Khan, a Pakistani court on Wednesday ordered the government to make public details of the gifts received by the former Prime Minister from foreign dignitaries since assuming office in August 2018.
Justice Mian Gul Hassan Aurangzeb of the Islamabad High Court issued the directive to the Shehbaz Sharif-led government after hearing two petitions – one by a citizen seeking the implementation of the Pakistan Information Commission (PIC) order, and the other by the Cabinet Division challenging that order.
After a citizen approached the PIC to get details of the gifts, it directed the Cabinet Division to "provide the requested information about the gifts received by Mr. Khan from foreign heads of states, heads of governments and other foreign dignitaries, description/specification of each gift, information about the gifts retained by the Prime Minister and the rules under which gifts thus received are retained by him.” The Cabinet Division was told to share the required information within 10 working days and also upload it on the official website.
But the Cabinet Division challenged the PIC order in the Islamabad High Court after the then Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Government said that the disclosure of any information may jeopardise ties with some countries.
The Islamabad High Court upheld the PIC order and observed that the gifts belonged to the office of the Prime Minister and were not to be taken home.
Gifts given to government officials by foreign governments belong to the state of Pakistan and not some individuals, Justice Aurangzeb observed on Wednesday.
“These gifts are not meant for taking home,” he said, adding that these gifts should be recovered if someone had taken them home.
“Individuals come and go but the office of the Prime Minister of Pakistan is permanent,” the Express Tribune report said, quoting the judge.
The High Court said that information regarding the gifts should be shared with the petitioner since there was no stay order regarding making the information about these gifts’ public, the report said.
The court said that there should not be a policy of buying these state gifts by paying a meagre sum.
“Such a policy means that these gifts are on sale,” the judge said.
Justice Aurangzeb added that if there was a need for constitutional interpretation regarding these gifts then the high court was willing to help, the report said.
Last week, Prime Minister Sharif had alleged that his predecessor Mr. Khan during his tenure sold gifts from the Toshakhana or state depository worth ₹140 million in Dubai.
The Toshakhana scandal surfaced last year when it was reported that Mr. Khan as the premier received gifts such as wrist watches and bracelets from the Arab rulers.
Instead of depositing them in the Toshakhana, Opposition parties alleged that Mr. Khan purchased back some of them at a throwaway price and in turn sold them in Dubai, thus making hefty profits.
In response, Mr. Khan on Monday said they were his gifts, so it was his choice whether to keep them or not.
"Mera tohfa, meri marzi [my gift, my choice]," Geo News Pakistan quoted Mr. Khan - the first Pakistani Prime Minister to be ousted through a no-confidence motion - as saying during an informal conversation.
According to Pakistan's law, any gift received from dignitaries of a foreign state must be put in the Toshakhana.
Imran Khan, 69, has maintained that he was well within his right to buy those gifts according to law and that he had changed the rules and made it mandatory for officials to pay at least 50% of the value of the gift which was 25% earlier.
The cricketer-turned politician has stated that whatever he "bought from Toshakhana is on record and if anyone has evidence regarding corruption, he should come forward".
“I thank God, that in three years (of rule), all they have got against me is this Toshakhana gift scandal, which is already on record,” ARY News Pakistan quoted Mr. Khan as saying.
According to Pakistani media reports, the former premier received 58 gifts worth more than ₹140 million from 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.