KP govt announces probe into 2018 Senate poll horse-trading

Published February 11, 2021
In this file photo, KP government spokesman Kamran Bangash (right) and provincial minister Taimur Jhagra address the media.— DawnNewsTV/File
In this file photo, KP government spokesman Kamran Bangash (right) and provincial minister Taimur Jhagra address the media.— DawnNewsTV/File

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on Wednesday announced that it would investigate a recently-surfaced video showing members of the provincial assembly with mounds of cash received as purported bribe for changing loyalties in the 2018 Senate elections.

“We will get to the bottom of the [horse-trading] matter and will set up an inquiry commission for it in the due course of time,” spokesman for the government Kamran Khan Bangash told Dawn.

He said the government would constitute an independent inquiry commission instead of a judicial commission.

The probe announcement came in the wake of claims and counter-claims surrounding a leaked video of the purported horse-trading as some lawmakers shown in the video claimed that the cash was distributed to them in the presence of the then chief minister, Pervez Khattak, at the KP Assembly speaker’s official residence.

The provincial government has alleged that the Pakistan Peoples Party had distributed cash as it had won two Senate seats, including a general and a seat reserved for women, despite having only six members in the provincial assembly.

Spokesman says instead of judicial commission, an ‘independent’ inquiry panel will be formed

Obaidullah Mayar, a former MPA from Mardan district, admitted receiving cash for horse-trading. He, however, claimed that the cash was given away to lawmakers at the official residence of the provincial assembly’s speaker in the presence of the then chief minister, Pervez Khattak.

He said the issue of cash distribution to lawmakers was also discussed in several meetings at the Chief Minister’s House.

Mr Mayar alleged that Senator Fida Mohammad Khan played a crucial role in the Senate election negotiations and that he (Mayar) was on a panel of lawmakers that was formed to vote for another PTI nominee, Ayub Afridi.

He, however, claimed that the leaked horse-trading video was edited as PPP lawmaker Mohammad Ali Shah Bacha’s part was included in the original video.

The former lawmaker said he had disclosed the entire matter in 2018.

Mr Mayar’s assertions were backed up by another former MPA, Zahid Durrani, who in the video could be seen sit next to Mr Mayar.

Mr Durrani said he was at the speaker’s house, which was turned into a ‘cattle market’ by former chief minister Pervez Khattak.

He said the cash was distributed to lawmakers at the speaker’s official residence and that he turned down the Rs10 million cash offer.

“[The then CM] Pervez Khattak told me that you can use the money to put up party flags and do other activities in own constituency,” he said.

He claimed that members of both opposition and ruling parties visited the speaker’s house to receive cash.

Speaker of the National Assembly Asad Qaiser, who was then the speaker of the KP Assembly, denied that the cash was distributed to lawmakers at the speaker’s house under his watch.

In a tweet, he insisted that neither the place shown in the video was the speaker’s house nor had he anything to do with the matter.

Mr Qaiser said Prime Minister Imran Khan had disclosed the change of loyalties in 2018 and the PTI unanimously decided to take action against the culpable lawmakers.

“The allegation that the episode took place at the speaker’s house is just an attempt to divert the people’s attention from the issue,” he said.

The horse-trading video showing lawmakers receiving cash for their votes and surfaced on Tuesday has already cost provincial law minister Sultan Mohammad Khan his job as he tendered resignation from the office in line with the directions of Chief Minister Mahmood Khan.

The PTI had expelled 20 of its lawmakers on the charge of selling votes after the 2018 general elections.

Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2021

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