A private member's bill for the management and regulation of the Toshakhana was submitted to the Senate Secretariat on Wednesday, proposing that public office holders and their family members should not be allowed to retain or purchase gifts.
The bill, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, was submitted by PPP Senator Bahramand Khan Tangi and will be taken up on private member's day in the upper house of Parliament.
Established in 1974, the Toshakhana is a department under the administrative control of the Cabinet Division and stores precious gifts given to rulers, parliamentarians, bureaucrats and officials by heads of other governments, states and foreign dignitaries as a goodwill gesture.
It has valuables ranging from bulletproof cars, gold-plated souvenirs, expensive paintings to watches, ornaments, rugs and swords.
The Toshakhana and the treasures it holds have once again returned to political discourse after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif alleged, soon after coming to power, that his predecessor Imran Khan sold expensive gifts received from friendly countries. For their part, PTI mouthpieces like Fawad Chaudhry said then that there was "nothing wrong" with selling off things that were acquired legally.
Read: Toshakhana saga
Lately, members of the coalition government have frequently mentioned Imran's retention of the Toshakhana to cast aspersions on the former premier's "Sadiq" and "Ameen" status.
The bill submitted today states that the Cabinet Division shall be responsible for the management and regulation of all gifts maintained in the Toshakhana. It adds that an evaluation committee should also be established for ensuring that all gifts received are preserved and deposited in a transparent manner.
The committee shall submit an annual report to the federal cabinet containing details of the receipt and disposal of gifts, including amount deposited in the treasury, the bill says, adding that it shall also formulate its terms of references for its functions.
The bill also outlines the procedure for depositing, maintaining and disposal of gifts, stating that public office holders and their family members shall not be allowed to purchase gifts from the Toshakhana, either directly or through public auction.
It also states that public office holders or their relatives shall not be allowed to retain any category of gifts after paying the retention costs.
"All gifts received by the public office holder irrespective of their prices must be reported and deposited immediately in Toshakhana of the Cabinet Division. If it is found, on checking, that an individual has not reported the receipt of the gift, appropriate action shall be taken against him."
It also says that the Cabinet Division shall get the value of gifts assessed by government sector experts in the Federal Board of Revenue and by private appraisers.
"If the difference in value of gifts assessed by two categories of appraises is less than 25 per cent, the high level shall be accepted. However if the difference in value is 25pc or more, a committee to be constituted by the cabinet secretary shall decide the value," it says.
Further, it says that suitable for display should be properly catalogued and subsequently displayed in government buildings or in official residences of heads of state. "An annual physical verification/stock taking shall be carried out in respect of such articles by an authorised officer of the Cabinet Division in the first quarter of each calendar year."
The bill says that gifts which fall under the category of sale shall be disposed of through public auction, while antique items and vehicles shall not be allowed to be purchased by the recipients.
Toshakhana (Maintenance and Administration) Rules, 1974, (revised up to 2012), are applied to the president, prime minister, Senate chairman and deputy chairman, National Assembly speaker and deputy speaker, federal ministers, ministers of state, members of parliament, government servants and also employees of autonomous and semi-autonomous bodies, whether on duty or leave, serving in any capacity in connection with the affairs of the government or while on deputation with any other body, agency, institution or authority.
Under the rules, it is mandatory that gifts of a certain value are deposited in Toshakhana. However, an official is also allowed to keep these gifts provided he pays a certain percentage of the price assessed by the Toshakhana evaluation committee.