Former prime minister Imran Khan on Monday defended his selling of gifts he had purchased from the Toshakhana, claiming they were his personal property and he was free to utilize them as he saw fit.
In an informal meeting with a select group of journalists, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman claimed that he had deposited all gifts given to him from foreign leaders with the Toshakhana and subsequently purchased them for himself after paying 50 percent of the market value. Comparing the state gifts to DHA plots given to Army personnel upon their retirement, he said that once such amenities became private property, it was up to the individual to decide what to do with them.
Local media has reported that Khan received 58 gifts worth over Rs. 140 million during his tenure as prime minister, with Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb questioning how he was able to afford Rs. 70 million to purchase these gifts if—as he had earlier claimed—his salary wasn’t even sufficient to cover his household expenses.
Addressing media after Khan’s interview, she also accused him of lying about depositing all gifts with the Toshakhana, adding that even the ones he had purchased were not paid in full. Claiming that he should have deposited 50 percent of the value, she said that he had only paid Rs. 30 million for gifts worth Rs. 140 million.
According to journalists who met with Khan, the former prime minister reiterated claims that the security establishment had given him three options ahead of the vote of no-confidence—resign, early elections, or face the no-trust vote. This is in direct contradiction of Inter-Services Public Relations Director-General Maj. Gen. Babar Iftikhar, who told a press conference last week that the Prime Minister’s Office had contacted the military leadership to help it broker an end to the political crisis provoked by the no-confidence motion. “The Army chief and the DG ISI visited the P.M. Office at its request to play the role of mediator,” he had said.
Reiterating his calls for people to take to the streets to protest the new government, the PTI chairman told reporters that he had “never” seen as many people attending rallies in Pakistan as had come out to support himin Peshawar and Karachi. Alleging that the incumbent chief election commissioner had been appointed at the behest of the security establishment—an about-face considering that Khan had earlier stressed that he had “full input” on the appointment—the former prime minister suggested the formation of an independent body for the selection of a new chief election commissioner.
Responding to a question on Farah Khan, a close friend of Khan’s wife Bushra Bibi that has been accused of facilitating corruption in Punjab, the former prime minister claimed to reporters she could “not have taken any money” as she was not an officeholder or a minister.
Justice Qazi Faez Isa
The PTI chairman, according to reports, said that filing a presidential reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa was a “mistake.” Claiming that the reference should not have been filed, he sought to distance himself from it by alleging it was “sent” by the law ministry and he had no “personal enmity” with any judges. Regardless, the PTI—and its social media team—viciously attacked Justice Isa and his family, accusing them of corruption and demanding his resignation. Many PTI lawmakers, including then-information minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, had refused to condemn this harassment.
Reacting to Khan’s claims, former law minister Farogh Naseem said that the reference against Justice Isa was filed on Khan’s insistence. He told local media that the material that had formed the basis of the reference was provided by the Assets Recovery Unit that Khan had set up, adding that the ARU had worked directly on Khan’s orders. He also noted that summaries like the one against Justice Isa could not be filed without prior clearance from both the president and the prime minister.
Fawad, meanwhile, tried to browbeat Naseem into accepting Khan’s claims. In a posting on Twitter, the PTI leader claimed he had objected to the filing of the reference, and Naseem should have admitted that it was his doing as he was law minister at the time. The MQM leader, however, said that Fawad’s recall was faulty and suggested examining the minutes of cabinet meetings to prove he was in the right.