ISLAMABAD: The Toshakhana of the Government of Pakistan is not worth visiting as most of the presidents, prime ministers, military rulers and key officials, both military and civilian, in the past took away on throwaway prices the gifts they had received from foreign dignitaries.
Informed sources said that although presently the former prime minister Imran Khan is caught in the middle of a storm; hardly any former prime minister, president, military ruler and key officials deposited their valuable gifts to Toshakhana.
According to an official source, who has been handling the subject in the Cabinet Division, the Toshakhana has nothing to show, and generally is left with what he called trash.
He said that if the information regarding Toshakhana gifts retained by former rulers including General Musharraf, Asif Ali Zardari, Nawaz Sharif, Shaukat Aziz and others, is made public, it would be far more scandalous than what has already come out regarding Imran Khan.
“You will be surprised to know how even the military secretaries of the presidents and prime ministers benefited from the Toshakhana,” the source said, adding that the policy of Toshakhana was made for the benefit of the ruling elite. He said that till the 2018 end, recipient of the gift could retain it by depositing only 20 per cent of the value assessed.
Former prime minister Imran Khan, who retained almost Rs100 million worth gifts for only Rs20 million during the initial few months of his rule, had revised the policy for the Toshakhana by the end of 2018 and decided that a gift could be retained by paying 50 percent of the assessed value.
Presently, it is said, such is the situation of the Toshakhana that rarely any civilian and military official who are occasionally offered to buy the gifts available, show any keenness to buy them.
Toshakhana gifts, presents from foreign notables and dignitaries given to senior state and government officials and deposited in a 'treasure-house' -- are usually considered the state’s possession. However, as per the government policy, these gifts are only available to political and bureaucratic elite, both civilian and military, and judges of the superior judiciary.
These most influential segments of society are traditionally allowed to retain the gifts received during official foreign tours or from dignitaries of foreign countries on highly-subsidised rates or they are auctioned to officers of the federal government and armed forces. Whatever is left becomes part of the Toshakhana.
Government sources say that despite the policy that every gift received must be reported to the government and deposited in the Toshakhana, there are cases where gifts received have neither been declared nor given to the government for safe-keeping in the 'treasure-house'.
In the latest policy, revised in December 2018, gifts valued above Rs30,000 may be allowed to be retained by the recipient on payment of 50 percent of the value exceeding the basic exemption of Rs30,000. This exemption, however, is not available in the case of antiques and gifts of intrinsic historical value. All such gifts should be properly catalogued and displayed at prominent buildings owned by the government.
Gifts up to a value of Rs30,000 can be retained free of cost by the recipient. Public functionaries, except for the president and the head of government, are prohibited from receiving gifts of any kind for their person or for members of their families from diplomats, consular and other foreign government representatives stationed in Pakistan or from any public organisation or private individual and firm within the country. However, if due to very exceptional reasons the gift cannot be declined, it shall invariably be deposited in the Toshakhana.
As per the policy, the gifts deposited in the Toshakhana that are fit for display must be properly catalogued and then displayed at prominent buildings/ institutions owned by the government or in the official residences of the head of state or the head of government. Such articles shall be properly entered in the Toshakhana register and in the stock registers of the respective offices/ institutions.
Gifts which are not fit to be retained or displayed shall be disposed of by periodical sales to be arranged by the Cabinet Division. These sales shall be held once or twice a year. The list of gifts to be sold shall be circulated to all federal government officers and officers of the armed forces. The articles not purchased in two consecutive auctions by government servants should be disposed of to the public through sealed bids.
Antique items and vehicles shall not be allowed to be purchased by the recipients. Antiques shall be placed in museums or displayed in official buildings owned by the government. Vehicles should be given to the central pool of cars of the Cabinet Division.
The procedure for the acceptance and disposal of these gifts shall apply to the president/ prime minister and their family members, Senate chairman, National Assembly speaker, chief justice of the Supreme Court, governors of the provinces, members of the federal cabinet, attorney general for Pakistan, ministers of state, Senate deputy chairman, National Assembly deputy speaker, dignitaries holding ministerial status, members of provincial cabinets, judges of the Supreme Court, the chief justice/ judges of the high courts, parliamentarians and other elected representatives, all government servants (civil and military) as well as employees of the government controlled corporations, autonomous and semi-autonomous bodies and their spouse/ dependents, members of the provincial governments, other members of the public travelling abroad as members of official delegations.
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