Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leaders were on the offensive on Wednesday as they criticised Dubai-based businessman Umar Farooq Zahoor's claims regarding buying the Toshakhana gifts given to deposed prime minister Imran Khan during his tenure.
The PTI leaders termed Zahoor a "notorious" and "wanted" man.
The charges of misuse of the Toshakhana (gift depository) against former prime minister Imran Khan took an unusual turn a day earlier after Zahoor come to the fore and claimed that he had bought some of the state gifts, including an expensive Graff wristwatch worth at least Rs2 billion, from Farah Gogi and Shahzad Akbar.
In an interview with a private TV channel, Zahoor said that he had bought the expensive items, gifted to the PTI chief by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, for $2 million.
Read Toshakhana reference sent to trial court for criminal proceedings against Imran
He had further alleged that the adviser to the former premier on accountability Shahzad Akbar had contacted him in 2019 to sell watches, rings, and other gifts. He said that he also has evidence to substantiate the claims he was making.
The businessman had gone on to allege that he was later blackmailed and fake cases of money laundering were registered against him by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) at Akbar's behest after he refused to listen to the demands made by his former wife Sophia Mirza.
“Farah Khan herself brought the gifts to my office in Dubai and told me that the items had been gifted to Imran Khan by the Saudi crown prince,” he claimed, adding that he was convinced to buy them after he confirmed through his sources.
PTI leaders Fawad Chaudhry, Shireen Mazari and Zulfi Bukhari while addressing a press conference denounced Zahoor's claims and asserted that there had been no foul play on the part of the PTI chief.
“The PTI has always stood against corruption in Pakistan,” said Fawad. “We hold ourselves accountable just as we hold others accountable,” he said.
"Imran Khan went to Saudi Arabia for the first time in 2018 and when he met the King he was gifted a watch," he admitted.
"The gifts are received by the chief of protocol, the prime minister has nothing to do with these matters," Fawad explained. "The prices of these gifts are then determined by the Toshakhana, which sends them to the concerned Prime Minister's Office in a regular manner where it is clearly mentioned what the value of each item is," he further said.
"This law has been in place since before the PTI government's tenure," Fawad said. "In fact, earlier only 20 per cent of the original price was to be paid to the state, but our government raised it up to 50 per cent so that the national treasury could benefit".
“The watch was received by the chief protocol of the Foreign Office,” said Fawad. “The same officer deposited this gift in the depository of the Cabinet Division,” he added.
"The evaluation of the watch set by the Cabinet Division had roughly been Rs 0.1 billion, and 20 per cent of that price was paid whereby this gift became Imran Khan's personal possession," said Fawad, adding that Imran later sold the gift for Rs57 million "in the Pakistani market and capital gain tax was also paid for that accordingly, as mentioned in Imran Khan's tax returns and as declared to the Election Commission."
Fawad also revealed that the watch was "not sold to Umar Farooq Zahoor" and "Farah Bibi had nothing to do with the matter". The former minister added that the party will take legal action against the businessman in England.
Zulfi Bukhari also added that the watch had been sold to a "dealer", who "later sold the set to someone else according to my sources, perhaps to the said person, for Rs61 million".
He also claimed that the "dealer is presently on the run and out of the country" but promised that "the lie will be unearthed" as the "dealer will be brought before everyone".
Shireen Mazari on the occasion also questioned why Imran was scrutinised so strictly while the Toshakhana details of other political leaders and public servants were not probed.
"My question is: Is there any record of the gifts the military leaders receive when they go on official visits," she stressed.
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Earlier, denouncing the businessman's claims, senior PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry in a tweet said that "no prime minister was ever gifted a watch worth $5 million".
"The watch was not sold to businessman Umar Farooq, nor does this person have any relation with Imran Khan," Fawad Chaudhry added, stressing that Farooq "claimed that the watch is worth $5 million and that he bought it for $2 million".
"A five million dollar watch has never been gifted to a prime minister," the PTI leader added.
“Imran Khan bought the watch from Toshakhana as per law,” Fawad explained. “This watch is mentioned in Imran Khan’s Tax returns and Election Commission's reports”.
“When they could not find anything else, they forged the Toshakhana case against Imran Khan,” said Fawad.
Shireen Mazari also came to the former premier's defense saying the private news channel that had aired the controversial programme had been "caught in its own deceit" as she quote tweeted a document initially posted by Fawad Chaudhry, showing the details of the evaluation of the said gifted items.
Caught in their own deceit! #PropagandaBusted #WeTrustImranKhan https://t.co/zLeWRplYza— Shireen Mazari (@ShireenMazari1) November 15, 2022
The PTI leaders implied that as per the businessman, while the items were bought in 2019 their evaluation was done hours before the TV show was recorded, claiming that "propaganda stood busted".
Meanwhile, PTI's Imran Ismail took a dig at Zahoor saying "the person who is himself involved in theft is the one making the allegations". He also criticised the private TV channel for not asking the businessman why he was wanted all over the world.
جو شخص خُد چوری میں ملوث ہو وہ الزام لگا رہا ہے- Geo دشمنی نباہنے میں یہ بھول گیا کہ یہ آدمی oalo man کے نام سے بدنام اور سزا یافتہ ہے- ایک سوال یہ بھی کر لیتے کہ آپ دنیا کو کیوں مطلوب ہیں؟ عمران خان نے قانون کے مطابق تحائف خریدے اور ٹیکس گوشواروں میں ظاہر کیے- #WeTrustImranKhan pic.twitter.com/CHVPcCbpFF— Imran Ismail (@ImranIsmailPTI) November 16, 2022
"Imran Khan bought the gifts according to the law and mentioned them in his tax returns," the PTI leader stressed.
However, the recently-terminated member of the PTI, Faisal Vawda, shared an image with the businessman saying "this meeting with Umar Farooq was held in the office of my ministry on the instructions of the Prime Minister's Office, in which other four ministers and senior officials of all ministries were also present".
عمر فاروق سے ہونے والی یہ ملاقات میری وزارت کے دفتر میں وزیراعظم آفس کی ہدایت پر ہوئی تھی جس میں میرے علاوہ دیگر چار وزیر اور تمام وزارتوں اعلی حکام بھی موجود تھے- عمر فارق اور دیگر سے ہونے والی یہ ملاقات دبئی ڈیلیگیشن کےتحت ہوئی تھی-اس تصویر کو جو رنگ دینا چاہیں دیں کوئی ڈر نہیں pic.twitter.com/Q7m7WIq6Fo— Faisal Vawda (@FaisalVawdaPTI) November 15, 2022
"Feel free to give this picture whatever color you want," Vawda added.
Farah’s husband denies allegations
Ahsan Jameel Gujjar, husband of Farah Gogi, immediately denied the allegations of any such trade, terming it “a fabricated and baseless story”. Gujjar, speaking to Express News anchorperson Javed Chaudhry on his show ‘Kal Tak’, said neither he, nor his wife knew Shahzad Akbar or Umar Farooq.
“We do not have a transactional relationship with Imran Khan and he never gave any gift to me or Farah,” he claimed and demanded the CCTV footage evidence to back the allegations.
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“CCTV cameras are installed at jewellers’ shops in Dubai. They should bring out the footage along with the claim. A person making such a big deal must have installed cameras in his office,” Gujjar said.
Shahzad Akbar also took to Twitter to deny allegations made against him.
The official documents, available with APP, revealed in April that Imran and his wife had retained 52 free gifts worth millions "without paying a single penny".
The list of Toshakhana gifts received by ex-PM Imran between August 2018 and December 2021 had remained a secret during his tenure, making the situation scandalous to reports of hiding the information from the tax authorities.
Toshakhana is a department under the Cabinet Division which maintains the record of the precious gifts given to rulers, parliamentarians, and officials by heads of other governments, states, and foreign dignitaries as a goodwill gesture.
The then government had adopted the stance that the disclosure of any information related to Toshakhana would jeopardise international ties.
The list of gifts showed that the other valuables were kept by the couple after paying a meagre amount than the assessed value.
From seven luxurious Rolex and other expensive watches to gold and diamond jewellery including multiple necklaces, bracelets, rings, multiple diamond chains, an expensive pen and cufflinks worth millions, dinner sets, perfumes, and Oud fragrance, the couple retained everything that different states of the world were gifting to Pakistan.
The most precious gift was presented by Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman during the very first visit of Imran to the kingdom. However, to the irony, the Rs85 million Graff wristwatch was retained by the former prime minister by paying only Rs20 million.
'Imran sold gifts in Dubai'
In April, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had said he can confirm that his predecessor, PTI Chairman Imran Khan, took gifts from the Toshakhana and sold them in Dubai.
"Imran Khan sold these gifts for Rs140 million in Dubai," PM Shehbaz was reported as telling journalists during an iftar he had hosted a day earlier in the federal capital.
The valuable gifts include diamond jewellery, bracelets, watches and sets, he had said.
'If it is mine I can sell’
Meanwhile, responding to the allegations levelled by the PML-N, Fawad Chaudhry had clarified that the former prime minister had paid a percentage of the assessed price, adding it will also be reflected in his annual income tax returns.
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However, the former minister had said he was not aware of the details of other gifts received by Imran.
Speaking to a private channel, he had asserted that no matter what the price of the watch was, “if it is mine I can sell it. Nobody should have a problem with it”.
The former minister had advised PM Shehbaz Sharif to refrain from “superficial gossip” and focus on national issues.
However, the sources had said that the decision to sell the watch in Dubai did not go down well with a friendly country that had gifted it to Imran Khan as a gesture of brotherhood.
“The foreign government was of the view that the watch was custom-made and there were only two such watches,” sources had added.
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