Toshakhana Case: Politicians surrender to bureaucrats

All are naked in the public bath

A Letter from Prometheus

On January 19, in response to the Lahore High Court’s (LHC) directive to provide details with regards to Toshakhana gifts, the PML(N)-led Federal Government excused itself from complying with the orders, arguing that it may lead to damaging Pakistan’s foreign relations. Trust me, the PTI is not in the Federal Government and the answer has been submitted by the PML(N)-led PDM government.

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The case of Toshakhana gifts received and sold by former Prime Minister Imran Khan had been a blockbuster series run by anti-PTI elements since Khan was voted out from the PM Office last April. In the last nine months, the entire paradigm of Khan’s corruption was placed by the PDM government on two major cases— Toshakhana gifts and the Al-Qadir University land issue.

Interestingly, the PML(N)-led federal government had successfully dismantled the Toshakhana gifts case against Imran Khan by submitting the same reply the PTI government submitted to Islamabad High Court. More interestingly, the reply is written by the same group of bureaucrats who helped Imran Khan to place Toshakhana allegedly at the mercy of private people like Farah Gogi who could take state gifts worth millions of dollars out of the country for selling them in the international market.

In the Lahore High Court, the Federal Government argued that “The Right of Access to Information (RTI) Act, 2017”, also provided exemption from disclosure of the information that pertained “to the personal privacy of an individual, the information declared as classified by the minister-in-charge of the federal government and the information whose disclosure may cause damage to the interests of Pakistan in the conduct of international relations.”

The reply of the Federal Government is contrary to the decisions and observations of the Pakistan Information Commission given in Raja Ibrar vs the State of Pakistan. After this reply, the PML(N)-led PDM has virtually lost moral grounds to grill Imran Khan in the Toshakhana gifts case.

The second important alleged corruption case against Imran Khan promoted in the media was the Al-Qadir University land case that is no more in the media nowadays because PML(N) circles look shy to raise this case in the media. Political circles claim that the reason for the mysterious silence is the alleged involvement of a business tycoon in this saga.

I believe PDM leadership understands the risk and the cost of an imaginable defeat in forthcoming general elections as well as by-elections for having no strong narrative against Imran Khan.  Such defeat would be the last one for parliamentarians at the hands of a person who has a clear idea how to get rid of the parliamentary system— Imran Khan.

The journalist Raja Ibrar who raised the Toshakhana gifts case claims that he is not living a normal life since he raised the issue of the Toshakhana gifts and he had been the subject of state suppression and repression since then. Even after nine months in government, the PDM parties have not taken any action against those who victimized Raja Ibrar financially as well as psychologically because they are members of the permanent state— the bureaucracy.

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The submission of the Federal government statement in the Lahore High Court over the Toshakhana gifts case left Raja Ibrar and many such journalists in the lurch who try to raise their voices against injustice. They have reasons to believe that they are doing a futile exercise of risking their lives to stand against the state-sponsored alleged corruption.Asad Ali Toor and many more journalists who faced state-sponsored purges during Imran Khan had no clue why the sitting government is shy to take people to task who followed and executed the illegal orders of Khan’s regime willfully.

Pakistan has become one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists who face subjugation from the state as well as individuals and groups. As many as 42 journalists were murdered across Pakistan during the last four years and a total of 55 accused were nominated for their killings. The PTI government would be remembered for the maximum number of killings of journalists in its 42-month era. 15 journalists were killed in Punjab, 11 in Sindh, 13 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and three in Balochistan. No accused has been punished in any of the 42 cases; indicating that getting away is very simple after killing a journalist in Pakistan and it makes hardly any difference who is in government because the government in Pakistan is in the hands of  “bureaucrats”, while politicians behave as second fiddle and every bureaucrat covers up for his or her cadre whenever the situation arises.

The reply of the Federal Government in the Lahore High Court in the Toshakhana gifts case is not a simple move for anybody— neither for Imran Khan nor for the PML(N) government. After this reply the PML(N)-led government has already lost moral justification to abuse Imran in this case and cannot raise this issue in any election campaign in the future while Imran Khan got a huge moral win by stating that I am not the only one naked in the public bath.

In the journalistic circles of the capital, the majority of talks revolve around the proposition that the sitting government looks like an extension of Imran Khan’s era because the government is run by over 90 percent of the same bureaucrats who were the choice of Project Imran. Journalists who are inclined to PDM parties look worried about what narrative they will have now to target Khan during possible by-elections in KPK and Punjab. Even general elections are due this year and anti-PTI parties have no strong narrative against Khan after slipping chances over playing Toshakhana and Al-Qadir University issues.

There is a saying that power has its own dimensions and mechanism, and power knows what suits it. I agree but there are two popular versions of political power. One is gaining and retaining political power through manipulation and the second version is gaining and retaining political power through leadership.

Once I read in a book that a bad leader has the capacity to paralyze a team more than a coward and he or she is the one who avoids difficult issues and buys loyalty by saying yes to anyone and any idea. The Webster’s Dictionary defines the word coward when used as a noun, as “a person who lacks courage in facing danger, difficulty, opposition, pain, etc.; a timid or easily intimidated person.”

Homer the Greek philosopher, historian, and poet says in book 9 of ‘The Iliad’ ‘The same honour waits for the coward and the brave– death but everyone is remembered for death with glory or death with the shame of being a coward.  Homer says that both go down to Death, the fighter who shirks, the one who works to exhaustion.

I believe PDM leadership understands the risk and the cost of an imaginable defeat in forthcoming general elections as well as by-elections for having no strong narrative against Imran Khan.  Such defeat would be the last one for parliamentarians at the hands of a person who has a clear idea how to get rid of the parliamentary system— Imran Khan.

That man is not truly brave who is afraid either to seem or to be, when it suits him, a coward. Edgar Allan Poe

Agha Iqrar Haroon
Agha Iqrar Haroon
The writer is an international award winning journalist who has been in the field since 1988 and appears in national and international media as analyst and political scientist.

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