By Ghulam Haider
In a historic first, the government of Pakistan has declassified the much-awaited billions of rupees Toshakhana gifts received by public office holders, from foreign governments and dignitaries since 2002, at throwaway prices or without paying any single penny.
A 446-page list of Toshakhana gifts from 2002 to March 2023 contains the names of presidents, prime ministers, chief ministers, military establishment, judges, journalists, ministers, and bureaucrats as the recipients, who pocked gifts worth millions due to their official position.
Earlier this year, the federal government had told the Lahore High Court (LHC) that public disclosure of Toshakhana details could cause unnecessary media hype and potentially damage Pakistan’s foreign relations. However, the LHC remarked that it would hold off an order to make details of the Toshakhana gifts public until it would be satisfied that these gifts were kept secret.
The Toshakhana record shows that 224 gifts were received in 2022, 116 gifts in 2021, 175 gifts in 2018, and 91 gifts in 2014, while 177 gifts were received by government officials in 2015.
The list contains the names of former prime ministers Shaukat Aziz, Nawaz Sharif, Yusuf Raza Gilani, Imran Khan and Raja Parvez Ashraf, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, as well as president Dr Arif Alvi as well former president General Parvez Musharraf (the late) and others, who took away everything; from mugs to wall hangings to swords to cups to saucers to handkerchief to tissue boxes chocolates to honey books to paintings to pens to diamond & gold ornaments to guns to classic and costly vehicles like Mercedez Benz and Lexus.
The great men of character, along with the immediate families, also did not spare dates, saffron, oud, soap, perfumes, juices, and cufflinks and pocketed them after paying little or no cost tall.
Many senior state officials allegedly took home expensive presents that they received from foreign dignitaries by paying a little or no amount, and later selling them on the open market for a huge premium.
Former prime minister Shaukat Aziz took away 885 gifts from Toshakhana, while the overall gifts collected by former president Pervez Musharraf, ex-prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and former prime minister Imran Khan collectively took away 546 gifts from Toshakhana.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), in its verdict in the Toshakhana case against former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, disqualified him from the country’s National Assembly for not disclosing the gifts he received from Toshakhana last year. The electoral body gave its verdict saying Imran made “false statements and incorrect declaration” regarding the Toshakhana gifts. A districts and sessions court in the federal capital is also hearing a criminal case against him for concealing details of the gifts he retained while serving as the prime minister.
An overview of the Toshakhana gifts list reveals that the government of Pakistan received more than 1200 wristwatches from the year 2002 to 2023. Almost all of these watches were retained by prime ministers & their families, presidents, federal ministers, secretaries, army officers, naval chiefs, journalists, cameramen, protocol personnel and personal gunmen of these officials.
Former prime ministers seem to have special liking for wristwatches as Shaukat Aziz grabbed 34 wristwatches watches while Imran Khan took away the costliest wristwatch valued at Rs. 85 million from Toshakhana. He took away seven wristwatches while over he and his wife received 58 gifts from Toshakhana.
Ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif managed to take away 11 wristwatches, Mercedez Benz car, glass set, cufflinks, coins, vase, etc. worth millions at throwaway prices from Toshakhana. While his younger brother Shahbaz Sharif took away two wristwatches, vases, bowls, decoration pieces, coffee maker while he was the Punjab Chief Minister.
Current Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar took away four wristwatches, former Naval Chief Admiral Zakaullah retained 13 wristwatches while his wife collected four wristwatches.
Former president Asif Ali Zardari took away 10 wristwatches, BMW, Lexus and other items while former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani took away one wristwatch and gold jewellery and models worth millions at negligible price. Gillani’s wife, Fauzia Gillani, retained a jewellery set (Rs. 2m) after paying Rs. 326,043 for it in December 2009.
Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi took away seven wrist watches while his spouse and children took away five wristwatches. He retained a Hublot wristwatch (Rs. 15m), a pair of cufflinks (Rs. 1.2m), a pen (Rs. 1.5m), a ring (Rs. 3m) and prayer beads (Rs. 1.85m) in October 2017 after paying Rs. 4.5m for them. His wife Sameena Shahid also retained a jewellery set (Rs. 99m) after paying Rs.19.99m for it.
In November 2017, Abbasi retained a Rolex watch boxset (Rs. 23m) after paying Rs. 4.59m for it. In April 2018, he retained a Rolex wristwatch (Rs. 25m) after paying a total of Rs. 5.27m for it and other items.
Three-time former prime minister and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif retained a Mercedes Benz (Rs. 4.2m) in April 2008 after paying Rs. 636,888 for it. In November 2013, he retained a Rolex wristwatch (Rs1.18m) after paying Rs. 243,000 for it and some other items. He kept a Piaget wristwatch (Rs. 1 million) in January 2015 after paying Rs. 240,000 for it and a box of perfumes.
In January 2016, he retained a Christopher Claret watch (Rs. 2 million), a ring (Rs. 19.5 million) and a pair of cufflinks (Rs. 16 million) and some other items after paying a total of Rs7.6m. Meanwhile, his wife Kulsoom Nawaz (the late) retained a bracelet (Rs. 12.7 million) and a necklace and earring (Rs. 41.6m) after paying Rs.10.8m.
In February 2016, Nawaz retained a Dela Cour watch (Rs.3.2 million), a ring (Rs. 8 million) and a pair of cufflinks (Rs. 5 million) after paying Rs. 3.2 million. In October 2016, he retained a Rolex watch (Rs1.2m) and another Rolex watch (Rs. 850,000) and some other items after paying Rs. 469,000.
In March 2017, his son, Hussain Nawaz, retained a Rolex watch (Rs. 940,000) after paying Rs. 186,000. Meanwhile, the PML-N supremo himself retained a diamond necklace (Rs. 1 million) after paying Rs. 207,560 for it and a table watch.
In May 2017, Nawaz retained a Rolex wristwatch (Rs. 4m) after paying Rs. 808,000 for it while his daughter Maryam Nawaz got a pineapple juice box for free.
According to the record, ex-prime minister and Chairman Pakistran Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan had a long list of gifts. He retained a Rolex watch valued at Rs 8.5 crore, pair of cufflinks, a pen and one ring by paying Rs. 2 crore. Whereas originally the cufflinks were valued at Rs. 5,670,000, pen Rs 1,500,000 and ring was priced at Rs. 8,750,000. He retained a wooden oud box and two perfumes priced Rs. 500,000 free of cost. He kept for himself a Rolex watch priced Rs. 1.5 million by paying only Rs. 294,000.
Former prime minister and PTI Chairman Imran Khan in September 2018 retained a Graff wristwatch (Rs. 85m), a pair of cufflinks (Rs 5.6m), a pen (Rs. 1.5m) and a ring (Rs. 8.75m) after paying Rs. 20m for them.
In October 2018, he retained a Rolex watch, assessed at Rs. 3.8 million, after paying Rs. 754,000 for it. Another Rolex watch (Rs. 1.5m) followed in the month after paying Rs. 294,000 for it. In November 2018, Imran Khan retained another Rolex wristwatch (Rs. 900,000) after paying a total of Rs. 338,600 for it and other items. In October 2019, he retained a boxed watch, assessed at Rs1.9m, after paying Rs935,000 for it.
In September 2020, Imran retained yet another Rolex watch, assessed at Rs4.4m, after paying Rs2.4m for it and a number of other gifts. In the same month, his wife Bushra Bibi also kept a necklace (Rs10m), bracelet (Rs. 2.4m), ring (Rs. 2.8m) and a pair of earrings (Rs. 1.85m) after paying Rs. 9m for them.
Although Imran Khan had increased the retention amount from 20pc to 50pc of the assessed value, he did so after retaining some of the most expensive gifts at a rate of 20pc. This is why the average retention amount paid by him on all gifts over a period of about three years works out to be just 27pc. He made a cool profit of Rs104.78m even if we compute it on the basis of the government-assessed value, which is generally on the lower side of the market price.
Asif Ali Zardari
Former president and PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari in January 2009 retained a BMW car (Rs57.8m) and Toyota Lexus (Rs50m) after paying a total of Rs16.1m for them and another BMW car (Rs27.3m) after paying Rs4m.
In March 2011, he retained a wristwatch (Rs1m) after paying Rs158,250 for it and some other items. In June 2011, he retained a Corum wristwatch (Rs1.25m) after paying a total of Rs189,219 for it and some other items. Another Cartier wristwatch (Rs1m) followed in October 2011 with a payment of Rs321,000 for it and a gun.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari
Foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari took away two wristwatches, three pens, vase, cups and other from Toshakhana.
Fawad Hasan Fawad
Bureaucrat Fawad Hasan Fad took away a wristwatch worth 1.9 million by paying just Rs. 375000 from Toshakhana.
President Dr Arif Alvi’s wife, Samina Alvi, retained a necklace (Rs1.19m) in October 2019 after paying Rs865,000 for it and other items in a jewellery box.
The president himself retained a Rolex wristwatch (Rs2.5m) in February 2022 after paying Rs1.2m for it.
Former prime minister and National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf retained a Graff wristwatch assessed at Rs. 890,000 in November 2012 after paying Rs. 218,000 for it and other items.
On Thursday, the federal cabinet had decided to make the details and records of Toshakhana, a state repository that stores gifts received by public officeholders from other governments and foreign dignitaries, public, said Defence Minister Khawaja Asif.
The Toshakhana department, which was established in 1978, and all the public office holders, including parliamentarians and bureaucrats, are bound to report the gifts to the Cabinet Division. The department came under the spotlight when proceedings were initiated against former prime minister Imran Khan for “not sharing details” of Toshakhana gifts retained by him.
The Toshakhana was transferred from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Cabinet Division in 1973 under Schedule-II of the Rule of Business, 1973. The gifts deposited in Toshakhana of Cabinet Division are governed under the ‘Procedure for Acceptance and Disposal of Gifts’, amended from time to time. Lastly, the Procedure was amended in the year 2018 whereby the retention cost of the gift(s) was enhanced from 20 per cent to 50pc of the assessed value.
According to Toshakhana rules, gifts/presents and other such materials received by persons to whom these rules apply shall be reported to the Cabinet Division. The parliamentarians
The department has been in the news in recent months in light of proceedings against former prime minister Imran Khan for “not sharing details” of Toshakhana gifts.
Last month, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had announced the government’s plans to make the entire record public. He had also barred the officials from retaining gifts worth more than $300.
“These disclosures have highlighted the urgent need to reform the Toshakhana procedure. Since these gifts are given to state officials, and almost invariably reciprocated at state expense, it is fair to demand that all gifts received by high officials should be deposited in the Toshakhana and a more thoughtful policy adopted for their disposal through, for example, open auction, using the proceeds for public welfare,” says Ahmad Bilal Mehboob, Executive Director Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT).
Toshakhana plunder pertains more to the character rather than the price. A video clip has been circulating on social media in which Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi says that, despite being asked to retain Toshakhana gifts by paying a little amount he auctioned, he ordered the auction of the gifts and collected INR 100 crore, which he utilized for girls education.