ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday said that the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) had made a “mockery of democracy” and that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had helped protected those in power who sought the secret ballot.
These remarks were made during a televised address a day after the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lost the Senate seat for Islamabad to PDM joint candidate and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) senior leader, Yousaf Raza Gillani.
Reiterating the narrative of the PTI, PM Imran pointed out his desire to introduce a transparent system of democracy through the open ballot. As had often been said by various PTI ministers leading up to the election, the premier highlighted the fact that the PTI had removed 20 of its members for taking bribes in the 2018 Senate elections.
He also reiterated that the PPP and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had signed the Charter of Democracy (CoD) in 2006, wherein they themselves had proposed the idea of open ballots. Question the state of democracy in the country, the premier said that the ECP had been “protecting those who made money by holding Senate elections through secret ballot”.
“We presented a bill in the parliament for open balloting in Senate elections. When other parties who previously supported open balloting did not support our demand, we went to the Supreme Court.”
He maintained that the opposition would never receive an NRO like agreement. “Whether I am in the government or out of the assembly, I will not spare them,” he added.
The premier highlighted that while the SC had decided it was the ECP’s responsibility to ensure transparent elections, the opposition had banded together to defend the secret ballot.
“Why do you think the same parties who wanted an open ballot now geared all their efforts to have a secret ballot?” asked the premier. PM Imran said that while the PDM parties highlighted the importance of the Constitution whilst defending the secret ballot, they seemed to have no issue with it when signing the CoD.
“I was surprised that when you’re spending money, a senator becomes a senator by giving bribes, and on the other side [are] those MPs who are selling their conscience and voting after taking money, then what kind of democracy is this? Since then I started my campaign and I said since then that there should be an open ballot.”
“I want to remind you that their corruption cases are old, we didn’t make them, they are since their times, in our time only five per cent cases [have been started], while the rest are all old,” he said, adding that the opposition had since then united to put pressure on the government.
“All of them have one interest: to exert so much pressure on me that I raise my hands and, like Gen Musharraf, give them an NRO and end their corruption cases.”
Prime Minister Imran maintained that since the first day he had come into power, running a hunt against corrupt elements within the system, the opposition had begun to panic. He added that he had predicted the union of the opposition parties on his first day, knowing that they would attempt to pressure him into giving up.
He said that they “blackmailed” the government on a “rigged election” and then criticised the coronavirus response.
PM Imran also spoke of the Financial Action Task Force’s (FAFT) listing of Pakistan as a “grey list” country.
“The sanctions mean that our rupee will fall and then inflation rises […] anything that is imported becomes expensive,” he said, counting fuel, electricity, pulses, ghee, and wheat as the commodities most affected.
He highlighted that while the government was trying to meet the requirements of the FAFT, the opposition did not cooperate in this regard, and instead had used this moment of need as a bargaining chip to attempt to get the NRO.
The premier maintained that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had nothing to do with the FAFT’s 27 requirements. “They have a one point agenda to pressure me to get an NRO,” he said.
PM Imran underscored that the PDM had used money to bribe members of the PTI so that, when Finance Minister Hafeez Shaikh lost, it would make the party appear to be weak. The premier said that the PDM wants to hang “a sword of no-confidence” above his head.
This was the PDM’s strategy to “blackmail me so I give them [a concession under] an NRO,” he added.
Maintaining that justice and order are the difference-makers between prosperity and failure, the premier said that his struggle over the last 22 years has always been to make sure those in power are held accountable.
“Pakistan is not a poor country, but no country can progress when the corrupt and powerful launder money,” he said, adding that a country’s downfall comes when a country’s prime minister himself engages in corruption.
He asked how the common man within a country could be expected to be honest when the leadership itself was corrupt. He further questioned what kind of message this sends to the youth of the country.
The prime minister said that when Gillani becomes a senator and “will allow corrupt practices to prevail, what example will we set for the younger generation?”
ECP TAKES NOTICE OF PM’S SPEECH:
Shortly after the prime minister’s televised address, the ECP took notice of his comments and summoned an emergency meeting.