A day after the shock defeat of the PTI candidate on a high-stakes Senate seat that forced him to seek a vote of confidence from parliament, Prime Minister Imran Khan has offered to “go into opposition”, if the ruling party’s “MPs thought he was incompetent”.
The victory of Yousuf Raza Gilani, the joint opposition’s nominee for the Senate seat for the federal capital, over PTI’s Abdul Hafeez Sheikh dwarfed the overall gains of the ruling party in the elections of the upper house of parliament.
While the opposition is basking in the glory of their victory, the ruling party immediately went back to the drawing board to brainstorm a strategy to absorb the shock and deny the opposition any political advantage whatsoever from one Senate seat that, according to rivals, symbolically means the prime minister doesn’t command confidence of the house anymore.
The opposition had a plan to use money in the Gilani-Shaikh contest, the premier said in a televised address to the nation on Thursday. “They spared no effort to break away our lawmakers and offered them money. Their plan was to defeat Hafeez Shaikh to prove that Imran Khan has lost majority in parliament,” he added
Imran held the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) responsible for damaging country’s democracy by failing to hold fair and transparent Senate election. He said he would take a vote of confidence from the National Assembly on Saturday (tomorrow) and was ready to sit on the opposition benches than giving amnesty to the opposition.
Accusing the national poll supervisor of allegedly protecting those who made money by holding Senate elections through secret ballot, the prime minister said that the ECP’s failure to hold fair and transparent elections has damaged the country’s morality and democracy.
The premier said that corruption took place right under the ECP’s nose and what happened in the Senate elections was a reflection of all the problems of the country.
“What was the reason that you [ECP] couldn’t print 1,500 ballot papers with bar code,” Imran questioned. “You [ECP] gave a complete chance to discredit country’s democracy” and democracy was undermined by secret ballot, he said. “Conducting fair and transparent elections is the constitutional responsibility of the election commission.”
Simultaneously, the premier threw down the gauntlet to the treasury benches’ lawmakers to openly vote against him if they felt he was “incompetent” during the assembly session summoned by the President Dr Arif Alvi at 12:15pm on March 6.
The prime minister expressed his willingness to sit on the opposition benches rather than giving an NRO to “corrupt” politicians belonging to PDM – a reference to the political amnesty given by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf through the National Reconciliation Ordinance in 2007.
Referring to Shaikh’s defeat and explaining why he opted for taking a vote of confidence from the National Assembly, Imran said the “opposition wanted to take NRO by brandishing the sword of no-confidence but I don’t want power; I prefer the future of the country over it”.
The premier directly accused Gilani of buying PTI lawmakers and criticised him for choosing to stand disqualified by the Supreme Court for not writing a letter against former president Asif Ali Zardari to Swiss authorities.
He made it clear to the PDM that he would not spare them even if he loses premiership or goes out of parliament. “What was the reason that the parties that demanded open ballot in the past started demanding secret ballot,” he asked.
He accused the PDM of putting the national interest at stake in every issue, including Financial Action Task Force (FATF) legislation, to save its corruption. “The corrupt parties formed an alliance, fearing accountability,” he said.
Suggesting that he will fight till the end against corruption and the corrupt, Imran repeatedly vowed in his address that he would not give any NRO to the opposition. The address was also aimed at re-energising his party members and voters, especially, youth of the country.
“What example are we setting for our young generation by allowing the buying and selling of votes,” he said. He recalled that he expelled 20 of his lawmakers from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa after 2018 Senate polls when it emerged that they had sold their votes.
Throughout the speech, he reiterated that the “sole purpose of his entering politics was to ensure the rule of law.”
He said that corruption could not be curbed through laws alone, adding that the whole society plays a role in eliminating corruption by not inviting corrupt people to parties, by not accepting proposals from such people and making them feel that they do not belong to us.
“Ending corruption is the responsibility of the entire nation, not just Imran Khan,” he said.
Imran said that he would continue fighting against the “traitors”; it was his faith that the good time will come and the country would progress when corrupts were thrown in jail.
Also read: PTI gets the lion’s share in Senate polls
While explaining the political situation in the country, he said that the country saw a sharp decline due to corruption after 1985, adding that the ruling class’ corruption makes the country indebted.
During his speech, Imran said that the PTI realised in the Senate elections that “money is used”, but added that it was not a new phenomenon rather this practice had been going on for the last 30 to 40 years.
“What kind of democracy is this,” he said, noting that the country’s leadership emerges from the Senate elections and the parliament, and the prime minister, cabinet members and ministers were chosen from among the lawmakers.
He recounted the PTI government’s efforts for holding open vote in the Senate elections and how the ECP and the PDM leadership argued against it, despite the PPP and the PML-N’s promise in the Charter of Democracy of holding the Senate elections through open vote.
Meanwhile, Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and Director General Inter-Services Intelligence Lt Gen Faiz Hameed reportedly met the prime minister.
Although there was no word from the military’s media wing or the official statement from the PM’s Office, the top leadership reportedly discussed overall security situation in the country.