Pakistan is under political turmoil with a lurking economic default. Currently, an interim coalition government under Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is in office. If the economic disaster is put aside to focus on political instability, there is mayhem occurring on political grounds in Pakistan which is nothing new. Economics and politics are interlinked but the focus is set on arresting political rivals.
To get a rough idea, we have to look in retrospect. Former Prime Minister and chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan was ousted via a Vote of No Confidence motion. He was removed from office in April 2022 and since then he has built narratives regarding his ouster. The disaster of the economy came in inheritance to the interim government. The focal point of the government is to lock up Imran and secure a vote bank for the next elections.
The most important point is that Imran Khan has been disqualified by the Election Commission of Pakistan. The reason was the undeclared gifts of Toshakhana. Although the undeclared gifts were not a strong footing to disqualify Imran Khan, Pakistan’s politics had a tradition to displace Prime Ministers on technical faults, be it not receiving Iqama as in the case of Nawaz Sharif.
The case of Tosha Khana started somewhere in August 2022. Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) filed a reference against Imran Khan. The reason was that Imran Khan didn’t declare the number of gifts he had retained while holding office. During his tenure in 2021, Pakistan Information Commission (PIC) ordered the cabinet division of Khan to disclose the details of the gifts. But Khan refused to make the record public. Later on, his government was overthrown and much more was added.
But what is Toshakhana? Toshakhana is a gift repository in which gifts received from international dignitaries are retained. The public office holders are recipients of these gifts and the cabinet division is responsible for its maintenance. The office holders can retain those gifts by paying a set percentage. The gifts worth less than 30,000 PKR were to be retained for free. During Shaukat Aziz’s tenure, the amount to be paid was 15% of the total amount of the gift. The percentage was increased to 20% when the Pakistan Peoples’ Party was in office. Moving on, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf increased it to 50%.
A total of 58 gifts were presented to Khan and he retained all of them. These gifts included expensive watches, gold and diamond jewelry, pens, carpets, ornaments, perfumes, dinner sets etc. Only 14 items were worth more than 30,000 PKR while the rest ranged in millions. Among them there was the most expensive watch gifted to him by Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman. The watch was worth 85 million and was the most expensive gift ever retained by any Prime Minister in history.
According to Fact Focus, the estimated amount of these gifts was 142.0421 million and Khan paid only 38.17 million for retaining gifts. The rest of the gifts worth 800,200 PKR were retained for free. According to dawn reports, Khan made a profit of 104.78 million rupees and this was the biggest earning of his lifetime.
On October 21, 2022 Imran Khan was disqualified by Election commission of Pakistan (ECP) as a member of National Assembly. Under article 63(1) (p) and sections 137, 167 and 173 of Election Act 2017. The verdict was based on the argument that as Imran Khan didn’t declare his received gifts so he is de seated as his Party chairman and cannot contest for elections. However, there remains ambiguity as this verdict was not given by the Apex court.
As for now, Islamabad High court issued non-bailable arrest warrants of Imran Khan for Tosha khana case. Along with this almost 100 FIRs have been registered against him in multiple cases, most of them are just a political tact. Arrest warrants are issued but Khan is not appearing in courts for his case hearings. His Lahore residence at Zaman Park has become a battle ground. In fear of his assassination attempt as he nearly missed one in November 2023, Khan is refusing to come for court appearance.
A political farce has been created in Lahore as protesters and police are face to face. Violent activities are being done on both sides. The most notable thing observed during this chaos is the populistic tendencies of the cult that is PTI. No rule of law is being observed and sheer propaganda is being done to twist the facts. The supporters have regarded their leader as the untouchable and have no brains to understand jurisprudence and law. On the other hand, government is using all its efforts to arrest Imran Khan.
The tradition has been long set to disqualify opponents based on technicalities of law. Many have been arrested and kept in jail for years. Political witch hunting is a political norm in Pakistan. Government files cases against members of the opposition in their rule. And when the same opposition comes in ruling, they take a dig at their opponents. But in the case of Imran Khan, it has intensified many folds. There was a clear violation of human rights laws as many journalists and politicians were attacked and arrested. His allies and supporters were all jeering and mocking their opposition. And when the same is happening with Imran Khan, even the legit cases are posed as a conspiracy against him.
The difference between Khan and the rest of the political parties is that he enjoys more public support to an extent of populism. His followers are blind to his vices and regard him as his savior. The debate of Tosha Khana should have had him in question. He should be asked why he retained gifts when he declared himself as “Sadiq and Amin” and vowed to fight corruption. The gifts were legal to be taken but it was not a moral act. If he was different from the rest of the parties in his political sloganeering, then why this corruption? If he came in power to end poverty then why take expensive gifts, sell them at the minimum amount and then resist declaring them.
While the country faces an economic default, the politicians are busy securing their win in the next elections.
Edited By: Ritaja Kar
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