By: Asem Mustafa Awan
Toshakhana records are in the open owing to court orders as earlier these details were kept as a national secret. The PDF with 466 pages of details from 2002 to March 2023, on the official website of the Cabinet Division, has taken the nation by surprise.
The 21-year record flabbergasting and jaw-dropping at the same time. The common public is awe-struck by the fact as the powerful elite looted the ‘state gifts’ without a second thought and that is not all the elite and their families plundered the gifts believing the ‘national secret will be unearthed’.
The justification for keeping these gifts was already established by the ruling elite and the law existed but as regards determining the price of items ranging from modest value to very expensive cars there was no transparency. The people doing the evaluation of the gifts need to be questioned as to how they could price the state gifts from different heads of the state to mere pittance or objects bought from ‘pawn shops’.
The names of late General Pervez Musharraf, former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif, Shaukat Aziz, Mir Zafarullah Jamali, Yousaf Raza Gillani, Raja Pervez Ashraf, Shahid Khaqan Abbassi, Imran Khan, Nawaz Sharif, and Shehbaz Sharif from the list. Former president Asif Ali Zardari and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in their tenure are said to have violated the laws while buying cars worth millions of rupees and these cars with safety features besides being state of the art but a mere one-tenth rather less of the total price was paid and these cars were whisked away.
The Beamers (BMW), Mercs (Mercedes) and Lexus are now personal belongings besides a long list which, with 466 pages in still incomplete and covers only 21 years.
The trail if evaluated on actual cost will be worth in billions but all the fuss and chaos was created to tarnish former prime minister Imran Khan who recorded all the gifts and paid not ten percent but fifty percent and changed the rule which was abused by his predecessors.
It is a fact that heads of the state exchange gifts but the prevailing law with ‘not all the details’ revealed, leave a lot to be desired and figures are deliberately fudged. These ‘state gifts’ ended up in personal households and former prime minister when changed the law from 10 per cent to 50 per cent, a barrage of allegations were made against him. This eye opener for the public has shown all the true colours of the powerful elite who rule Pakistan on the pretext of ‘serving the nation’.
A thorough probe needs to be made as Imran Khan disclosed all the presents but was it the case with the others.
Indian Premier Nerindera Modi’s example in dealing with these state gifts should serve as food for thought for our ‘ruling elite’ as his orders in auctioning all the presents and money from the proceeds is spent in building schools.
Laws in Pakistan need to be changed as leaders here should not be made a laughing stock in the world.