Disclosure of Toshakhana gifts can be 'potentially damaging' for Pakistan's foreign relations, govt tells LHC.

The government on Thursday recorded its apprehensions before the Lahore High Court (LHC) regarding Toshakhana gifts, saying the public disclosure of such articles could cause 'unnecessary media hype, which might be potentially damaging to the interests of Pakistan in the conduct of international relations'.

The concern was raised by the government in its report submitted before the single-judge bench during the hearing of a petition seeking to make records of Toshakhana gifts public.

The petition was filed by a private citizen Munir Ahmad through advocate Azhar Siddique in December 2022.

Established in 1974, the ToshaAkhana 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 and states and foreign dignitaries.

According to Toshakhana rules, gifts/presents and other such materials received by persons to whom these rules apply shall be reported to the Cabinet Division.

The department has been in the news in recent days in light of proceedings against former prime minister Imran Khan for 'not sharing details' of Toshakhana gifts.

The government's stance also comes against the backdrop of its criticism of Imran for 'not sharing details' of Toshakhana gifts and proceeds from their alleged sale. A reference was also filed against the PTI chief by the coalition government in August last year for not declaring in his assets the amount he received from the sale of state gifts.

The PTI, while in government, had been reluctant to disclose details of the gifts presented to Imran since he assumed office in 2018, maintaining that doing so would jeopardise international ties, even as the Pakistan InforAmation Commission (PIC) ordered it to do so.

Justice Asim Hafeez of the LHC conducted today's proceedings, while Additional Attorney General Nasar Ahmed appeared on behalf of the government.

At the outset of the hearing, Ahmed apprised the court of a written response submitted by the government to the court detailing Toshakhana rules along with its disclosure policy.

In its three-page response, the government said: 'The Toshakhana was transferred from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Cabinet Division in 1973 under Schedule-II of the Rule of Business, 1973. The gifts deposited in Toshakhana of Cabinet Division are governed under the 'Procedure for Acceptance and Disposal of Gifts', amended from time to time. Lastly...

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