PM asks PDM leaders why they didn’t stop ‘vote trade’

Published February 11, 2021
KALLAR SYEDAN: Prime Minister Imran Khan talking to beneficiaries of Ehsaas Kafalat Programme on Wednesday.—PPI
KALLAR SYEDAN: Prime Minister Imran Khan talking to beneficiaries of Ehsaas Kafalat Programme on Wednesday.—PPI

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday asked leaders of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), the anti-government alliance of 10 opposition parties, why they did not close the doors of corruption in Senate elections during their 30-year rule.

“These thieves who call themselves politicians and have made a union in the PDM to protect their corruption should be questioned that they remained in power for 30 years but why did they not try to stop it [horse trading in Senate polls],” the prime minister said while talking to media after attending launching ceremony of the second phase of the Ehsaas Kafalat Programme in Kallar Syedan tehsil in Rawalpindi.

Mr Khan said the trend of purchasing votes in Senate elections during the last 30 years was a big question mark on the credibility of politicians who supported a corrupt system.

“When the political leadership [of the opposition] knows that money is traded [for Senate elections], why didn’t they make an effort to change it [the system],” questioned the prime minister.

Says he received offers from many sides to sell votes during previous Senate elections

“Because they themselves make money from it,” he added.

In response to a query on the video leak showing politicians buying and selling votes before the 2018 Senate elections, he said: “A big question lies ahead; whether to go for Senate polls with the old corrupt system or to act in a transparent way instead.”

PM Khan said these corrupt practices became evident to him after he and his party members received offers from multiple sides to sell votes during the previous Senate elections.

He recalled that he was approached by different people and offered funds for Shaukat Khanum Hospital, which was another mode of bribe.

“What kind of democracy is this where votes are sold; this is nothing, but a blot on democracy,” he said, adding that he had ousted 20 MPAs from his party who took money for votes in the last Senate elections after which some of them approached the court against the action.

Replying to the opposition’s allegations that he already knew about the video clip, Mr Khan said had he known about it, he would have presented it before the court.

“The PDM has made an alliance to protect their corruption and ill-gotten money,” he said.

“The market of corruption in politics is on the rise, but no other party is willing to change it,” he said, regretting that in the past, people became senators by buying votes from members of national and provincial assemblies.

Prime Minister Khan said currently, the rate for a single Senate vote in Balochistan ranged between Rs500 million to Rs700m, which was unfortunate.

“Those involved in such extravagance will later recover [the money they spend] by minting money from the public exchequer,” he added.

Replying to a question regarding Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s advice to him to learn politics from him, Imran Khan said the JUI-F chief himself was the one who most benefited from the secret ballot. “I have been advocating for an open ballot for the last five years,” he added.

The prime minister recalled that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Pakistan Peoples Party had earlier signed a Charter of Democracy and agreed on open ballot for Senate elections, but had now changed their minds to cover their corruption.

“The ruling party can take more benefit from secret ballot because of being in the government. But even then, we want to change the system for the benefit of the country and to end corruption,” he added.

The prime minister said with corruption at leadership level, the honesty at lower tiers could not be expected.

Talking about inflation, he said devaluation of Pakistan currency against dollar had resulted in price hike.

He said during the PPP government, the rupee got weakened by about 25 per cent while during Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government rupee’s value declined by 24.5pc against dollar.

He expressed the hope that with the continuity of trend in growth of exports, the situation would improve.

Highlighting the government’s much ambitious Ehsas programme, he said helping weak and poor segment of the country was not a favour but the responsibility of the government.

The prime minister distributed cheques among people after inaugurating the second phase of Ehsas Kifalat Programme.

He said Rs12,000 was going to be distributed among seven million poor people under the second phase of Ehsaas Kifalat programme and it would be based on merit and it would be ensured that not a single penny was distributed on political basis.

He said Ehsaas programme would gradually expand and more assistance would be given to deserving peopled such as health cards and undergraduate scholarships for needy students to help them complete their higher studies.

During the ceremony, Special Assistant to the PM on poverty alleviation and social safety Dr Sania Nishtar talked to some women, asked about their financial problems and assured them that their problems would be solved.

Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2021

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