The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday sought details of gifts obtained from the Toshakhana since 1947 on a plea seeking direction to concerned quarters to provide details of dignitaries, bureaucrats and officials who had obtained the gifts.
Justice Asim Hafeez presided over the case, wherein the law officer representing the government implored the court that the details of Toshakhana gifts are "secret" and could not be provided.
The judge remarked that when any person buys a gift from the Toshakhana they are required to mention them in their tax returns. "How could it be kept in secrecy?" he questioned.
Read Petitioner seeks details of Toshakhana gifts
He directed the government's lawyer to submit details before the court by January 16 and said that the LHC will decide whether or not the details are to be kept secret.
During the hearing, the petitioner's counsel Advocate Azhar Siddique told the court that no details were available about those who obtained Toshakhana gifts, under which mechanism the cost of the gifts was determined and/or how much money was deposited in the national exchequer.
He requested the court to direct the concerned quarters to make public all the details of the gifts.
The petition was filed by Munir Ahmed through Senior Advocate Azhar Siddique, wherein the petitioner maintained that the Islamabad High Court on April 20, 2022, had directed the cabinet to disclose all information and specifications in relation to all the gifts received by Imran Khan, during his tenure as prime minister.
Following this order, the petitioner sought information about all the gifts bought, withdrawn or taken by prime ministers and presidents of Pakistan since 1947.
Additionally, the petitioner also sought information regarding the market value of the gifts (prevalent at that time), the assessed value of the gifts and the amount paid by the receivers of the gifts (presidents and prime ministers) from 1947 till date.
Advocate Siddique submitted that the petitioner believes this exercise will ensure that citizens have complete access to the entire record of the Toshakhana which will aid the process of fairness, accountability and transparency.
The petitioner said that according to the law, Article 19(A) of the constitution has empowered the citizens of Pakistan by making access to information a justifiable right of the people rather than being largesse bestowed by the State at its whim.
Read More Plea filed in LHC seeking details of Toshakhana gifts received by all PMs
"Article 19(A) of the constitution has, thus, enabled every citizen to become independent power centres which, heretofore, have been in control of information on matters of public importance. All information that can be of any public importance must be made available to the general public," the petition read.
Therefore, the petition stated that it is imperative "for the sake of justice and principle of fairness" that information and details of all the gifts that have been received by former presidents and prime ministers is unveiled as it is "a matter of great public importance".
It maintained that the citizens of this country possess an inherent fundamental right to be privy to the entire record of the Toshakhana as this will prevent anyone from misusing the privileges granted by the Toshakhana, and safeguard the natural interests of the State by ensuring accountability in case of any mischief.
Advocate Siddique noted that details of Toshakhana gifts received under the premiership of Imran Khan have so far been disclosed by the cabinet division but details of the gifts received by former PMs Nawaz Sharif and Yousaf Raza Gillani, and ex-president Asif Ali Zardari have never been disclosed by the cabinet division which is "purely an act of malafide".
The lawyer implored that the petitioner has issued a letter to the president, premier, secretary cabinet division, Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, interior division and the chairman, PIC for the provision of information as well as compliance with the judgment of the court but all in vain.
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