Friday February 23, 2024

Toshakhana tales

By Editorial Board
November 17, 2022

Former prime minister Imran Khan’s untarnished image has been a little under the weather recently — what with the prohibited funding case and the Toshakhana reference both alleging some unsavoury practices by the PTI and its leader. The latest taint comes via an explosive interview conducted by Shahzeb Khanzada on Geo during which Dubai-based businessman Umar Farooq Zahoor has claimed that he bought an expensive Graff wristwatch for $2 million, gifted by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to Imran Khan. Zahoor has claimed that the special edition Kaaba watch, a one-of-its-kind piece, and assorted set was sold to him by Bushra Bibi’s friend Farah Gogi and former accountability adviser Mirza Shahzad Akbar. There are also claims that he paid 7.5 million dirhams in cash to Farah Gogi. The reaction to these startling revelations has expectedly been quick. Where both Farah’s husband and Shahzad Akbar have denied these allegations, Imran has announced he will be suing both the claimant (Umar Farooq Zahoor) as well as Geo and its anchorperson Shahzeb Khanzada. The PTI has claimed that the original buyer was a local dealer — but so far no banking transaction of the deal has been made public by the party.

Regardless of law-suit threats — which Khanzada has welcomed while also clarifying that the story was vetted before being aired — the claims by Umar Farooq Zahoor lead to some logical questions, which the PTI just can’t wish away by counter-claims of persecution. First of all, anyone would want to know how the watch ended up with him. Interestingly, although the PTI has shamed Zahoor as a ‘fraud’, they have not denied this is the same watch as was in the Toshakhana. So was the watch sold to someone else? If so, why is it so difficult to just furnish their name and put an end to this whole story? Because without this clarification, there are many issues that will need to be seen. For example, why would the former PM need to sell these gifts via Farah Gogi? Where did the money go after the sale? How was the valuation of diamonds (in the gifted pen) done and why were they under-valued?

These are just some of the questions, asked in good faith given the nature of the story, that need to be answered by the PTI. But, instead of answering these questions, the PTI has ended up resorting to its favourite pastime: attacking the messenger. It’s a shame that the party and its leader continue to misrepresent journalism to their supporters. Imran Khan must come clean through this crisis by providing full details about the gifts and the sales. The people of Pakistan have every right to know about the gifts their country’s head of government receives and how and where these gifts ultimately land. The PTI has been trying to wage a war against corruption but seems to have fallen short of keeping its own house in order. A complete money trail is called for in this case, the absence of which will do little to make the issue go away.