ISLAMABAD: The allegations of misuse of the Toshakhana against former prime minister Imran Khan took an unusual turn on Friday when Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif claimed that his predecessor sold expensive gifts received from foreign states, including a wrist watch by Saudi Arabia, in Dubai.

The prime minister’s claim was endorsed by former information minister Fawad Chaudhry, who said in a statement that “selling one’s own assets (after purchasing them from Toshakhana) is not a crime”.

Spokesperson for the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)-led government, Marriyum Aurangzeb, and party leader Ahsan Iqbal claimed that Mr Khan had not just sold a wrist watch, but other items also, including a necklace, ring, a gold Kalashnikov and a jeep.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has been avoiding sharing the details of gifts received by Mr Khan from foreign heads of state, and deposited with the Toshakhana — a repository of gifts received by a head of state from his/her foreign counterparts. The Islamabad High Court has been hearing a petition filed by a citizen seeking details of the gifts received by Mr Khan.

Fawad says nothing wrong if ex-PM bought gifts, sold as own assets

On Friday, during an interaction with senior journalists, Prime Minister Sharif accused the PTI leader and former prime minister Khan of selling gifts received during foreign visits. “I can confirm that Imran Khan sold state gifts worth Rs140 million from the Toshakhana in Dubai,” he alleged, adding the valuable state gifts included diamond jewellery, bracelets and watches.

According to the law, precious gifts received from foreign dignitaries were to be deposited with the Toshakhana.

Earlier, PTI chairman Imran Khan’s close aides, including Dr Shahbaz Gill, had claimed the former premier had not sold any gifts, but deposited them all with the Toshakhana. However, Mr Chaudhry said on Friday: “These gifts were purchased by Imran Khan and (after he became their owner) he can sell his assets. So there is nothing wrong with it,” he claimed.

Responding to the former minister’s assertion, Ms Aurangzeb claimed in a statement that Imran Khan had purchased state gifts such as cufflinks, a watch, ring and other valuables at Rs20m and sold them for Rs180m. “A gold-plated gun is also missing from the Toshakhana and will be recovered from Banigala (Mr Khan’s residence).”

The Toshakhana case against Imran Khan has been pending in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) for seven months.

Last year, the high court had questioned the previous PTI government’s reluctance to disclose details of the gifts presented to Mr Khan since August 2018 when he assumed office as the prime minister.

The Pakistan Information Commission (PIC) had earlier accepted an application of a petitioner over the alleged misuse of Toshakhana, and directed the Cabinet Division to “provide details of the gifts received by Imran Khan from foreign heads of states, heads of governments and other foreign dignitaries”. However, the Cabinet Division instead of providing the information had challenged the PIC order before the IHC.

“We have the details of the gifts obtained (by Imran Khan) from the Toshakhana and we will provide them to the high court whenever it asks us to,” Fawad Chaudhry said.

Moreover, Prime Minister Sharif termed reports of closure of the Ehsaas programme and panahgahs (shelter homes) baseless. “The government will not close panahgahs,” he stressed.

Hosting an Iftar dinner for the leaders of the PML-N and allied parties, he announced that the federal cabinet will be formed soon. He further said he had rejected a summary of the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority regarding a Rs21 increase in the price of petrol and Rs50 in that of diesel.

Mr Sharif vowed his government will strive to rid the country of the prevailing economic crunch. “We do not want to put an extra burden on the people,” he stressed.

PM meets FBR chief

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sharif on Friday asked Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Chairman Dr Muhammad Ashfaq to submit a report on the tax revenue. During a meeting, the FBR chairman briefed the prime minister about the current tax collection. He also apprised the PM of the overall performance of the FBR.

Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2022

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