Goverment’s embarrassing itself


Even the Islamabad High Court (IHC) was forced to question the government’s tactics in the so-called Toshakhana case, wondering what could possible be wrong with disclosing gifts that the prime minister has received from other heads of states and dignitaries. As to the cabinet division’s position that “exchange of goods between heads of state and heads of government is reflective of interstate relations, (and) disclosure of such information will potentially damage the interests of Pakistan in the conduct of international relations, jeopardizing interstate relations,” the IHC asked a very pertinent question that “if a country has given a necklace as a gift, what is the harm in making it public?”
The honourable court went on to note that the government was only embarrassing itself by taking such positions. It must also be noted that for PTI to take this position raises even more questions than usual considering how it made such a big deal about gifts received by former PM Nawaz Sharif and former President Asif Zardari and insisted that all gifts be made public. Yet now that the shoe is on the other foot the same party is bending over backwards, and making excuses that only embarrass itself, to keep the same kind of information hidden from the public.
The court’s other suggestion, that the entire mechanism of the Toshakhana should be altered is worthy of consideration, especially since it was also suggested that such items be placed in a museum dedicated to this purpose so there’s no longer any question of keeping anything hidden from anybody, least of all the ordinary public. It’s no surprise that the government’s counsel requested more time to reply; no doubt to take the matter back to the boss and see what he and his advisors have to say about it.
The most instructive takeaway from the proceedings so far is that the court reminded everybody that gifts extended to heads of state do not belong to any particular person but instead to the state itself. That should settle it, implying that sooner or later the government would have to do away with all the secrecy and disclose what the PM has been receiving from other dignitaries; as it should be.