Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone presenting a gift of carpet to President Zardari
Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone presenting a gift of carpet to President Zardari.—APP
ISLAMABAD A list presented in the Senate Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat on Monday revealed that only 447 of the 3,486 gifts received by state representatives (from presidents down to deputy secretaries) during foreign visits were deposited in Tosha Khana (gift depository).

The rest were retained by the receivers after paying a meagre amount or free of cost. A member of the committee told Dawn that the list contained the names of President Asif Ali Zardari, former presidents Rafiq Tarar and Pervez Musharraf, former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif, Mir Zafarullah Jamali and Shaukat Aziz and a number of top bureaucrats and officials.

A meeting of the committee, presided over by its chairman Shahid Hussain Bugti, took serious note of the situation and recommended an increase in the payment for a gift from the existing 15 per cent to 50 per cent of the assessed value.

Members of the meeting expressed concern over the way the gifts -- received by government functionaries during foreign visits or received from foreign guests during their visit to Pakistan -- were handed over to the receivers after wrong evaluation of their market price.

Shahid Bugti told Dawn that earlier a person who wanted to retain a gift had to pay 25 per cent of the assessed value of the item, but former prime minister Shaukat Aziz reduced the payment to 15 per cent in 2006 without an approval by the cabinet.

He said that under the rules, gifts with market value of less than Rs10,000 could be retained by an official without paying any amount.

According to sources, Shaukat Aziz took the advantage of this relaxation and retained hundreds of gifts with wrong assessment of market value.

They said the list showed that the former prime minister had retained a number of precious jewel-studded wrist watches by showing their market price as just a few thousands of rupees. Mr Aziz did not even deposit gifts with a market price of only Rs1,500 or less.

Mr Bugti said the committee felt that the previously received payment of 15 per cent of the assessed value of a gift was negligible and suggested that in future assessment should be made in a transparent manner.