PDM 'failed' because people never come out to protect rulers' corruption, says PM Imran

Published January 29, 2021
Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses questions from reporters in Sahiwal. — DawnNewsTV
Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses questions from reporters in Sahiwal. — DawnNewsTV

The opposition's 10-party Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) alliance was "bound to fail" and has failed because when the public takes to the streets it is always against the rulers and not to protect the corruption of the rulers, said Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday.

The premier was speaking to reporters in Sahiwal after attending a ceremony in which he announced various development and uplift projects for the city.

Prime Minister Imran said he had maintained in party meetings, cabinet meetings and while speaking to the media that the PDM was bound to fail. It failed because, according to him, the opposition leaders had made a mistake in assuming the people would come out to support them.

"Whenever [the] public comes out [in the streets] it is against the rulers, not to protect the corruption of the rulers," he said, citing the examples of countries like Lebanon where protests are ongoing against the government. "The public has never come out to protect the corruption of a corrupt politician."

He said the PDM thought the people were "idiots" but according to him, "there is no bigger idiot than the one who considers the public to be naive." This was proven when the PDM "failed to fill" the ground of Minar-i-Pakistan despite the PTI having done so four times because "it is filled only when the people of Lahore themselves walk and come to it," the premier added.

"When the people of Lahore don't come then it doesn't matter how many people you bring from outside [the city] by bribing them with qeemay wale naan."

Senate horsetrading

The prime minister also addressed the issue of horsetrading in the Senate elections and use of bribery among members of parliament. He said this practice had been ongoing "since 30 years" where "rates" were set for lawmakers.

He said the "money goes to the very top" on such occasions, revealing that he himself had been offered money in Senate elections.

He said the PTI had expelled 20 of its members after they were found guilty of taking Rs50 million for horsetrading in the 2018 Senate polls by an investigation committee. The premier stated that prices had "already begun being set" for the upcoming Senate elections, which he said was common knowledge to all political leaders and politicians.

"We also know who is the political leader collecting money to buy the people," Imran said, without giving away any names.

He termed the practice a "betrayal" with Pakistan, saying the Senate had a particular "status and role" since it represented the provinces in the federation. He said it reflected poorly on the kind of people who come to the Senate through money and questioned the ability of such lawmakers to represent their province.

"Apart from that, what kind of democracy is this where MPs sell their vote by taking money?

"So I'm doing my utmost [to bring transparency]. We've gone to courts, we're taking a constitutional amendment to [the National] Assembly," he said, adding that both main opposition parties, the PPP and PML-N, in their signed Charter of Democracy had favoured an open ballot.

Acknowledging that his government does not have a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly, Prime Minister Imran said it would still try to present the amendment for open ballot in Senate polls in an effort to curb horsetrading and so "the whole nation knows who is trying their best to end corruption and who are those people who are protecting corruption in this country".

'They themselves became trapped'

The prime minister said he was "very happy" the opposition had raised the issue of the foreign funding case because it had brought the subject of political parties' financial accounts into the limelight which he hoped to see come to its "natural conclusion".

"In their attempts to trap PTI they themselves became trapped," he said of the PDM.

He said the scrutiny committee of the Election Commission of Pakistan should scrutinise the funding of all political parties, adding: "Today I predict before you that the one party which will get the most excellent accounts is the PTI which has done political fundraising."

Imran said the PTI had names and addresses of 40,000 donors who were available for questioning and challenged the opposition to provide the names of 1,000 or even 100 official political donors.

"As soon as we find out you'll get to know how these parties collected money and you will also know that if there was foreign funding, then of which parties and to which party did Osama bin Laden give money."

'PML-N protected qabza mafia'

Continuing on from his comments earlier in the day on "qabza groups", the prime minister questioned the motives behind PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz's visit to 'Khokhar Palace' — where property belonging to the family of PML-N MNA Afzal Khokar and MPA Saiful Malook Khokhar was recently demolished by the Punjab government — to extend solidarity with a "land grabber".

He said she should have first checked and confirmed whether the land reclaimed in the demolition was actually the Khokhars' property or belonged to the government. "All that is in the papers, it is clearly written in the land registry that it wasn't his land which was reclaimed. He had taken over land worth Rs1.3 billion," he added.

Maryam's visit, the premier said, showed that "a person who calls herself the future leader of the country" supported someone who had taken over control of government property. He added that this proved that land-grabbing took place under the PML-N government and "they had given protection to this qabza mafia."

The prime minister vowed that such "dacoits" wouldn't be spared or given any National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO)-like concession, and that "we will not spare the qabza groups sitting underneath them."

Agriculture policy

In the context of the ongoing farmers' protests in India, Prime Minister Imran was asked if the government planned on announcing any agricultural package for farmers and what more will be done for them.

The government will be "bringing a big package which will uplift our entire agriculture sector", the premier said in response.

"It is our earnest effort that we bring a comprehensive agriculture policy which runs for the next five to 10 years and changes our whole agriculture sector," he added. These remarks came after he lamented the previous day about how past governments had focused on short-term projects when they should have instead considered the importance of long-term planning in nation-building.

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