Media had recently revealed some mind-boggling figures about the numbers and value of gifts taken home by some of our Presidents and Prime Ministers, practically free of cost or at throwaway prices. If we were to delve a little further into similar 'legalised rip-offs by ministers, bureaucrats and senior military officers, it would be reasonable to assume that there may be a dormant kleptomaniac gene in most of Pakistani high officials just waiting for the right moment to surface with full force. The media revelations, even cases of the beneficiaries of NRO included, may only be the tip of this huge iceberg. I recall reading in your columns some time back that Mr Nelson Mandela, when President of South Africa, had received innumerable gifts too but had ceded all of those to the state and got a museum built for their display. He said these gifts were showered on him in his capacity as President of the Democratic Republic of South Africa, and not in his personal capacity or for his personal use. We too have some Mandelas among those who claim to be our chosen (or self-anointed) leaders. Look what they do in this regard. We have just celebrated the 133rd birth anniversary of the Founder of Pakistan with the usual hackneyed platitudes and talk shows on the media. Even those who claim to have inherited his mantle seem totally unaware of what ideals he stood for or what vision he had for Pakistans future. Instead, what we have had, with rare exceptions, is a merry band of self-serving thugs and charlatans. Is it, therefore, any wonder that we are in the sorry mess that we are in? BRIG (Rtd) M. SHER KHAN, Rawalpindi, February 23.