TAXILA: Prime Minister Imran Khan has said opposition parties after failing on different fronts are now making attempts to “buy” lawmakers of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) to ensure more of their candidates get elected to the upper house of parliament in the upcoming Senate elections.
For the past 30 years, a “market” had been operating for Senate elections, the prime minister claimed while addressing a function after the inauguration of a tree plantation drive under the 10 billion tree tsunami initiative along with Ghazi Barotha water channel in Hazro town of Attock on Friday.
Mr Khan said prices to buy politicians were set ahead of Senate elections.
Referring to the rallies staged in recent months by the opposition’s Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) against his government, the prime minister said they had failed. “Now they want to get more seats in the Senate by purchasing our members. What kind of democracy is it?” he remarked.
Says prices are set ahead of Senate elections
He also criticised the parties for opposing the recently promulgated ordinance to hold the Senate elections through open ballot. He said even those who had been in favour of the open ballot process for Senate polls in the past had started opposing the idea.
The prime minister recalled that the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) despite having only six members in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly secured two Senate seats in 2018.
He said the opposition had to change its tactic after suffering multiple setbacks including the Lahore rally and attempts to blackmail the government over the Financial Action Task Force legislation.
He said corruption was normalised in the country during the previous governments. A country was damaged more by the involvement of prime ministers and ministers in corrupt practices than the corruption of revenue or police officials, he said, explaining that when prime ministers steal public money, their children own palaces abroad and (corrupt) ministers hold Iqamas (residence permits) of other countries, the country gets mired into a debt trap.
The prime minister said when a country was burdened with debt, it had to seek foreign assistance by compromising its respect and dignity. “Those (rulers) who hurt the country, they and their children, sons-in-law and brothers-in-law lead aristocratic lives abroad. When I see Ishaq Dar and Nawaz Sharif riding a Rolls Royce in London, it appears they were not born in Gwalmandi, but in London,” Mr Khan remarked.
He said that with the masses and corrupt politicians standing on the opposite sides, the nation was passing through a decisive moment, and Pakistan would emerge victorious. He said the people of Pakistan were up against “the dacoits and mafias” and the nation was at critical crossroads.
About the plantation drive, Mr Khan said: “We want to plant 10 billion trees to ensure that we are able to reverse the effects of climate change”.
The billion tree project must be successful to mitigate the effects of climate change, he said while pointing out that no attention had been given to the forestry in Pakistan in recent decades.
The prime minister regretted that instead of enhancing the forest cover during the past 70 years, even the existing forests in Chhanga Manga, Kundian amd Chichawatni vanished due to massive deforestation. He said Lahore was facing immense smog owing to 70pc reduction of green cover, which was highly dangerous for children and elders. The threat would increase unless the nation collectively decided to reverse the wrongdoings of the past, he added.
Mr Khan said the tree plantation was essential to protect the future generations, particularly when Pakistan was among the 10 countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
He likened the development of 10 cricket grounds along the water channel in the area with the youth’s involvement in the protection of plants. The plantation, he added, was essential for the country’s future and the cricket grounds for the health of young generation. He said the tree plantation was the only solution to overcome the growing heat due to emission of greenhouse gases.
Karma technology zone
Responding to some of the demands raised by Special Assistant to PM on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam for the area, Mr Khan announced setting up of a special technology zone at Kamra near Attock.
The prime minister said it was his government’s policy to give priority to local people for jobs in the projects established in an area. He was referring to the demand for job quota in ordinance industries.
Recalling that before assuming the premiership he had dreamed of extending the health insurance facility to all households in the country, he said that not only Attock district but the entire Punjab province would be provided with health insurance coverage under the Insaf Health Card scheme by the end of 2021. Calling it a matter of pride, he said even the developed countries could not yet provide the universal health coverage as had been provided in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The prime minister earlier unveiled the plaque of the plantation project, under which around 1.143 million trees including indigenous species such as Shisham, Bakain, Phulai, Siris and the fruit plants including guava, loquat, citrus and fig would be planted along the water channel of Ghazi Barotha power project.
The project would be completed within three years at a total cost of Rs147.1 million.
State Minister for Climate Change Zartaj Gul, Special Assistant to PM Shahbaz Gill and Senator Faisal Javed were also present on the occasion.
Earlier, Special Assistant to PM on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam told the gathering that the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami initiative was recognised globally. He said the KP government had not only achieved the target of one billion trees but also saved Rs8 billion of the project cost.
While accepting the Bonn Challenge, the government made plantation over 6.5 hectares going beyond the target of 3.5 hectares, he said, claiming that the government was about to get a third party audit of the 10 billion trees initiative.
The SAPM also thanked the prime minister for approving various development projects for Attock including a campus of Allama Iqbal Open University, a mother and childcare hospital, and gas supply to 35 villages.
Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2021