Pak PM Imran Khan says he will seek vote of confidence following Senate election defeat
Islamabad, Mar 04: Under mounting pressure from the Opposition to resign, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday announced that he will seek a vote of confidence from the National Assembly in a bid to restore the legitimacy of his government in the wake of embarrassing defeat of finance minister in the hotly-contested Senate elections.
Khan made the announcement in a televised address to the nation during which he lashed out at the grand Opposition alliance for "making a mockery of democracy" and said that he will never let the corrupt off the hook. Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) candidate and former prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani defeated Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) candidate Abdul Hafeez Shaikh on Wednesday, giving a major blow to Prime Minister Khan who had personally campaigned for his Cabinet colleague.
The PDM is an 11-party alliance set up in September last year to topple the government of Khan which it alleged came after rigging of elections in 2018.
"I will take a vote of confidence the day after tomorrow (Saturday). I will ask my members to show if they have confidence in me. If they say they have no confidence, I will sit on Opposition benches," the 68-year-old cricketer-turned politician said.
"If I am out of the government, I will go to the people and bring them out to continue my struggle for the country. I will not let these traitors (who plundered the country) sit in peace. I call them traitors because they are looters,” Khan said.
Khan’s party has 157 members in the 342-member National Assembly. Opposition PML-N and PPP have 84 and 54 members, respectively. President Arif Alvi has been conveyed to summon the National Assembly session on Saturday. The members of the ruling party and its allies have been asked to be present in Islamabad on Saturday.
Explaining the political situation in the country in the wake of Senate elections, Khan said that it was important to talk about it and explain it, because the problems in Pakistan can be understood through the kind of election that happened. The country's leadership comes from within the members of parliament "and here you have people becoming Senators after bribing others," he said. "The one who becomes a senator and wants to become one uses money and who do they buy? Members of Parliament… What joke is happening with our democracy? What kind of democracy is this?" a visibly upset Khan said.
Khan recalled that in the 2018 Senate elections, his party’s 20 lawmakers had sold their votes after accepting money. "We expelled them but then I saw that it wasn't just me saying this, but the two main parties that signed the Charter of Democracy — the PML-N and PPP — had agreed that there should be an open ballot because money is exchanged in the Senate elections," he added.
"I now ask you. Why do you think the same parties who wanted an open ballot now geared all their efforts to have a secret ballot?" Khan said, attacking the Opposition parties which demanded a secret ballot during Senate elections. Khan also lashed out at the Election Commission which he said failed to stop corruption in the elections.
"You (ECP) discredited democracy…you damaged the morality of the nation by doing nothing to stop vote-buying." He also talked about the slow fall of Pakistan into backwardness after 1985 non-party elections which ushered in the use of money in politics. He said before that Pakistan was far better as compared to India. "When I used to come to Pakistan from India after playing cricket, it looked as if you had come from a poor country to a rich country," he said. He said the Opposition parties tried to blackmail him in order to get concessions in their corruption cases. "They used money to win Senate elections to put pressure on me in the parliament," he said.
Khan claimed his party members were offered Rs 200 crores to buy votes and 15-16 members of his party sold themselves. He said it was important to stop corruption at the top before expecting the people to become honest. He also said that a leader can make more money in one deal than all money plundered by all thieves rotting in jails.
Speaking on the Financial Action Task Force's listing of Pakistan as a "grey list" country, Khan said Pakistan is required to do what the global watchdog to combat money laundering and terrorist financing directs, otherwise it will be "blacklisted" and "sanctioned". "The sanctions mean that our rupee will fall and then inflation rises [...] anything that is imported becomes expensive," he said, counting fuel, electricity, pulses and wheat as the commodities most affected.
Commenting on the decision of the government to seek a vote of confidence, former premier and senior leader of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that it was not substitute of fair and free elections. "The Prime Minister has lost moral ground to remain in office.... he should announce elections," he said.
The latest rift highlights the brittleness of Pakistan’s political system, notorious for shifting loyalties of politicians and a whimsical establishment that wants to keep its interests above everything in every government.
As the political drama unfolds, powerful army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, accompanied by the ISI chief Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed, met Prime Minister Khan and discussed various national issues.