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Wednesday May 22, 2024

LHC seeks Toshakhana records from 1947 to 2001

Govt had challenged LHC's single bench order to make records of state gift depository from 1990-2001

By Shahid Husain
April 10, 2023
The Lahore High Court. — Website/File
The Lahore High Court. — Website/File

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) sought the records of Toshakhana from 1947 to 2001, while hearing the government's plea challenging the single bench's order to release the state gift depository's records from 1990 to 2001.

The additional attorney general (AAG) had filed the intra-court appeal in the LHC against the order passed by a single bench led by Justice Asim Hafeez.

A two-member bench, comprising Justice Shahid Bilal Hassan and Justice Raza Qureshi is hearing the plea.

At the outset of the hearing, the court asked the AAG about the grounds for the government's plea.

At this, the lawyer informed the court that the bench had ordered to make the names of individuals who gave the gifts public.

"The government itself released the Toshakhana records from 2002 and onwards," he said.

He, however, said that the names of those who gave the gifts weren't made public to avoid destroying foreign relations. 

The AAG further stated that the government had uploaded all the details on the official website but wanted relief to the extent of revealing the names.

At this, Justice Qureshi asked whether those people were declaring what they had been gifted or not.

"We are also bound to declare it if anyone gives us a gift," Justice Bilal remarked.

At this, the AAG maintained that if anyone is representing a state then he is supposed to declare the gift. He said that the government wasn't trying to hide the records but the records before 2002 are not computerised and verified.

LHC orders release of Toshakhana record from 1990-2001

On March 22, Justice Hafeez had ordered the release the complete record of Toshakhana from 1990 to 2001, despite the government’s opposition.

The federal government had objected to sharing the source of a gift and said it would challenge the verdict. To this, Justice Hafeez had said it is your right to file a challenge.

“No one can retain the gift without making payment,” the order stated.

The directives from the high court came on a petition of citizen Munir Hafeez who had sought complete details of the gifts received by political rulers and bureaucrats from foreign dignitaries since the creation of Pakistan.

Earlier this month, the federal government released the Toshakhana record from 2002 onwards, exposing the political leadership of the country that benefitted from the depository.

The government had maintained that releasing all the records may harm Pakistan's relations with friendly countries, however, the court ignored these warnings and ordered to declassify the records.

Last week, the court ordered the presentation of the Toshakhana record prior to 2002 in any format available, adding that it would pass appropriate orders after reviewing the record.