FOREIGN MINISTER DEPOSITS RS6.35 MILLION IN SAUDI GIFTS IN GOVT TOSHAKHANA

FOREIGN MINISTER DEPOSITS RS6.35 MILLION IN SAUDI GIFTS IN GOVT TOSHAKHANA

SAM Staff,
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Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has deposited gifts worth millions of rupees received from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in the Toshakhana (gift depository), Foreign Office sources told DawnNewsTV on Wednesday.

FO documents dated January 9 and 10 state that the gifts were given to the foreign minister during Prime Minster Imran Khan’s visit on Sept 19, 2018.

According to the documents obtained by DawnNewsTV, Qureshi had received a Rolex watch, a gold pen embedded with gems, a pair of gold cuff links, a gold-chain rosary (tasbeeh) inlaid with precious gems, and a gold ring.

The total value of the gifts, assessed by an approved appraiser, amounts to Rs6.35 million.

A breakdown of the estimated value of the gifts is as follows:

Rolex watch: Rs4.85m

Gold pen with gems: Rs950,000

Gold cuff links: Rs135,000

Rosary: Rs205,000

Gold ring: Rs210,000

“The foreign minister has desired that the Toshakhana may retain [the gifts] and the sale proceeds may be deposited in the government treasury, as per prescribed procedure,” an FO document states.

Gifts are routinely exchanged between heads of states or officers holding constitutional positions on the eve of a state visit. According to Toshakhana rules, these gifts remain the property of the state unless sold at an open auction. If the original recipient wants to retain the present, they have to pay a fee determined by the Cabinet Division.

According to a news report from 2010, the then President Asif Ali Zardari is alleged to have set a record within a year of assuming office by taking one-third of all expensive gifts presented to all former presidents and prime ministers. Of the gifts of the value of Rs160 million, Zardari reportedly took away items of Rs62 million value during the first year of his presidency.

In the past, leaders have paid as little as 15 per cent of the assessed value of a gift. A list presented to the Senate Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat in 20019 had 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 the gift depository. The rest were retained by the receivers after paying a meagre amount or free of cost.

A member of the committee at the time had 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.

According to sources, Shaukat Aziz 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.

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