The Toshakhana Problem

The allegation of misuse of the Toshakhana against former prime minister Imran Khan has brought to light the laws regarding the Toshakhana and the procedure with which gifts can be accepted or disposed of by government figures.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI)’s close aides appear to give contradicting statements—while Dr Shahbaz Gill has claimed the former premier had not sold any gifts, Fawad Chaudhry appears to confirm the allegation, stating that there was nothing wrong with the way the gifts were disposed of. The controversy has naturally been a gift for Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), with Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif adding to the allegation by claiming that Khan took gifts worth Rs140 million from Toshakhana and sold them in Dubai.
PML-N may be a bit too preemptive in its celebration, considering that Khan is not the only political figure facing allegations regarding misuse of the Toshakhana. Six months ago, NAB had filed a Toshakhana reference against Zardari, Nawaz Sharif, Gillani, and others for allegedly acquiring three vehicles gifted by the embassy of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and other gifts from the Toshakhana—a case that is still ongoing in the accountability courts in Islamabad.
The only distinguishing factor between the allegations against Khan and the other former premiers is that in Khan’s instance, the allegation of supposed corruption may cause more damage considering weeding out corruption was perhaps his leading agenda.
The Toshakhana issue, therefore, appears to transcend political lines and looks to be centred on legal defects in issued procedures on financial accountability. As per the procedure laid down by the Federal Cabinet, 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.
Allowing government leaders to buy gifts at a discount, with the value being determined by government experts at the FBR, is a recipe for misuse. While on the political field, this debate will be fought with counter-allegations and mudslinging, what is needed is for legislative introspection and revision of the procedures dictating how gifts from the Toshakhana may be accepted or disposed.

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