After Senate upset, PM pushes for reforms to ensure 'transparent' polls

Published March 9, 2021
PM Imran addressing a meeting of the federal cabinet on Tuesday. – DawnNewsTV screenshot
PM Imran addressing a meeting of the federal cabinet on Tuesday. – DawnNewsTV screenshot

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday told the federal cabinet that he wanted regular updates on mechanisms being developed to ensure overseas Pakistanis can vote, in addition to the use of technology such as electronic voting machines (EVM).

The premier made the comments during the beginning of a session of the federal cabinet which was telecast live by state-run broadcasters.

"We can't have the kind of elections which have happened in the past," the prime minister said. "We need to use EVM technology for transparent elections and I want regular updates on it," he told his cabinet.

The prime minister said that he wanted to avoid any excuses of "we're not prepared for this technology" when the time came to use EVMs.

He stated that elections in Pakistan should be similar to the US and cited the example of former US president Donald Trump who could not find any evidence of rigging "despite all his efforts".

'Frightening report'

During the address, PM Imran also mentioned a "frightening report" by the Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity (FACTI) panel.

According to the report, every year $1,000 billion are transferred from poor countries to rich countries and tax havens through money laundering. "Money belonging to poor countries, stolen through corruption, is lying in tax havens."

He said that the ruling elites and office holders of such countries have to send the ill-gotten wealth abroad otherwise it becomes noticeable. "They do this by weakening the institutions responsible for monitoring money laundering and illicit financial flows.

"They bring in [development] projects not because the country needs them but because they get a lot of kickbacks. Mega projects with mega kickbacks," said the prime minister, adding that the kickbacks were then transferred abroad.

"The nation has to pay for this by incurring debt and the price of that debt has to be paid through inflation."

He also said that in order to facilitate this transfer of money, the ruling elites made corruption acceptable in society and used their money to influence and pressurise the media and institutions. "This damages the morality of the nation".

The premier reiterated that even nations struck by great calamities could "stand back up", citing the examples of Germany and Japan in World War II. The greatest destruction is caused when morality is eliminated in a society, he said.

"We saw this in the [Senate] election. Money was openly exchanged and everyone knows the drama we witnessed.

The premier said that if a person such as former president Asif Ali Zardari "buys people through money, his intelligence and political vision [are praised]".

The biggest damage this caused to the country was to make corruption acceptable, he added.

He said when a country had no moral authority, it couldn't mete out justice and would bring different laws for the rich and the poor.

"The powerful get (National Reconciliation Ordinance) NROs and deals while only the poor go to jail. A nation is destroyed when its ability to ensure justice is finished."

Senate elections

After completion of the much-hyped Senate election process, all eyes are now set on the coming election for the key offices of chairman and deputy chairman of the upper house.

Last week, the ruling coalition’s candidate Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh suffered defeat at the hands of opposition’s Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani in a major upset during the Senate elections, prompting PM Imran to announce that he would seek a vote of confidence afresh from the National Assembly.

In a show of strength, the prime minister secured 178 votes – six more than required – to win the vote of confidence from the lower house.

The opposition parties have managed to retain their majority in the upper house of parliament and are now hopeful of getting the top offices of chairman and deputy chairman for which elections through secret balloting will be held on March 12 (Friday).

As expected, a hung Senate emerged after last week's much-hyped elections on 48 seats of the upper house of parliament as the opposition and the ruling alliances now have 53 and 47 members, respectively, in the 100-member new Senate.

A day earlier, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) formally nominated PPP's Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani as its candidate for the office of the Senate chairman, but deferred its nominations for the offices of deputy chairman and the opposition leader.

Gilani will face incumbent Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, who has already been nominated as the candidate of the ruling alliance headed by the PTI.

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