Right to Information

LHC Orders Complete Disclosure of Toshakhana Record

LAHORE: Justice Asim Hafeez of the Lahore High Court has ordered the government to make the complete record of Toshakhana from 1990 to 2001 public, despite opposition from the government.

The high court has directed the authorities to release all the records, including the name of the friendly country who gifted the items, saying nothing could be hidden from public view.

This decision came on a petition of citizen Munir Hafeez who had sought complete details of the gifts received by political rulers and bureaucrats from foreign dignitaries since the creation of Pakistan.

Earlier this month, the federal government released the Toshakhana record from 2002 onwards, exposing the political leadership of the country that benefitted from the depository.

However, the government had maintained that releasing all the records may harm Pakistan’s relations with friendly countries, a claim that the court ignored.

Under the new Toshakhana policy, all government functionaries, including politicians, judges, generals, and bureaucrats, are required to declare and deposit all gifts received by them in Toshkhana within 30 days of receipt of gifts. Otherwise, punitive action will be taken against the violator.

The policy, which was notified on March 8, 2023, abolishes the previous rules which allowed the government functionaries to retain any gift by paying 50% of the price assessed.

Now, any gift exceeding US$ 300 shall straightaway become Toshakhana property while gifts valued up to US$ 300 can be retained by the recipient without any discount on the payment of assessed market value.

However, this exemption shall not be available in the case of antiques and gifts of intrinsic historical value. All such gifts shall be properly catalogued and displayed at prominent government-owned buildings. The recipients can retain gifts of perishable items without reporting or depositing them in Toshakhana.

To ensure that every gift received is reported and deposited in Toshakhana, the policy envisages that the chief of protocol, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or his representative attached to a visiting dignitary or a foreign delegation, shall be responsible to supply the list of the gifts received, together with names of the recipients, to the Cabinet Division.

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