Pakistan politicians and government officials received a treasure trove of gifts from foreign dignitaries over the past two decades including more than 150 Rolex watches, bullet-proof BMW cars and a 21-karat gold crown, newly released records show.
The South Asian nation, home to more than 220 million, has always been economically precarious and is currently gripped by a punishing downturn which has sent the cost-of-living soaring.
But records reveal a staggering list of luxury products the political and administrative elite have acquired.
Under the rules governing Islamabad’s “Toshakhana” — a Persian word meaning “treasure house” — politicians can keep official gifts if they have a low worth, while they must pay a dramatically reduced fee to the government for extravagant items.
Information minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said on Tuesday that the government would introduce a new limit, meaning gifts worth more than $300 cannot be kept by officials.
The ream of paperwork reveals former military dictator Pervez Musharraf — who died last month — kept a pearl necklace worth around $250 by paying just 750 rupees in 2006, or around $12 according to the exchange rate at the time.
In many countries, diplomatic gifts are intended as a symbolic exchange between cultures rather than tailored presents for specific individuals.
Former president Asif Ali Zardari — the husband of ex-premier Benazir Bhutto who was slain in a suicide attack on her convoy in 2007 — was gifted three bulletproof vehicles two years after her death.
The Toyota SUV and two BMWs were worth around $1.6 million but Zardari paid the equivalent of just $240,000 to keep them in his personal fleet.
The 21-karat gold crown, worth around $500, was bought by former prime minister Shaukat Aziz in 2005 for around a tenth of its value.
And like dozens of others on the list, former prime minister Imran Khan took the opportunity to buy a Rolex watch at a vastly reduced rate.
In 2018, he paid the rupee equivalent of around $6,000 for a watch appraised at around $32,000.
Rolex watches were also bought by an Arabic interpreter, the prime minister’s personal physician and a press secretary.
The Swiss-made timepieces generally hold their value and there is a healthy resale market among the super-rich.
The Toshakhana records do not detail which foreign states gave the gifts between 2002 and the present.
Source : DhakaTribune