IHC asks why govt hesitant about furnishing details of foreign gifts – Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) questioned why the federal government is showing reluctance to disclose the gifts received by Prime Minister Imran Khan from foreign dignitaries.

A single bench of Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, on Wednesday, heard the federal government’s petition against the Pakistan Information Commission’s (PIC) order to give details of the foreign gifts received by Prime Minister Imran Khan from abroad.

Justice Miangul Hassan inquired from the deputy attorney general; “Will you provide [the details of the gifts given to Prime Minister Imran Khan or not?”

He said the details of the certain gifts, i.e., defence-related, may not be disclosed, adding why the government is hesitant to make public details of other foreign gifts.

“What is the harm in making it public, if some country has given a necklace as a gift?” the judge asked.

“Why is the government facing shame by not disclosing gifts received from other countries?”

“Why doesn’t the government keep all the gifts in the museum? The government should make [details of] the gifts in the last 10 years public.” He also said the government should inform how many gifts had their valuation done by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).

The bench observed that the gifts given to the rulers belong to the public of Pakistan.

The federal government sought time to submit its reply on the matter.

The Judge questioned whether these public office holders would have been given the same gifts were it not for their official position.

The case was adjourned for two weeks

A citizen, Rana Abrar Khalid, had sought the details of gifts received by PM Imran Khan.

The federation filed the petition through the Cabinet Division and cited the PIC and Rana Abrar Khalid as respondents. The PIC had earlier accepted an application on the matter and directed the Cabinet Division to “provide the requested information about the gifts received by Prime Minister Imran 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 had opposed the request, taking the stance before the PIC that this matter did not fall within the ambit of the Right of Access to Information Act, 2017. Referring to a letter dated April 4, 1993, that had declared the details of Toshakhana “classified/secret”, it had argued that the information could not be requisitioned under the Access to Information Act.

Toshakhana is a department under the administrative control of the Cabinet Division.

Established in 1974, it stores precious gifts given to rulers, parliamentarians, bureaucrats and officials by heads of other governments, states and foreign dignitaries.

It is mandatory that gifts of a certain value are kept in Toshakhana.

However, officials can keep these gifts provided they pay a certain percentage of the price assessed by the Toshakhana evaluation committee.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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