Prime Minister Imran Khan lambasted on Wednesday the opposition parties in the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), saying they should be asked why they didn’t try to stop horse trading in Senate elections despite being in power for 30 years.
The premier was addressing the media after attending a ceremony for the second phase of the Ehsaas Kafalat Programme at Kallar Syedan Tehsil in Rawalpindi. “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. “Because they themselves make money from it,” he added.
“These thieves who call themselves politicians and have made a union in the PDM to protect their corruption, all of them should be questioned […] your parties have been in power for 30 years, why didn’t you try to stop it [horse trading in Senate polls]?”
The prime minister further said he himself had been offered money many times for a Senate seat “not just from one person but from many people”. He stated that members of his parliamentary board also received similar offers and the current alleged price for becoming a senator from Balochistan ranged between Rs500-700 million. He said that when politicians come to the Senate after spending such vast amounts, they look to make back that amount instead of serving the position or province in any meaningful way.
Do we want to hold [Senate] elections according to this same system when we know there is a money market set with rates for politicians?” the premier questioned rhetorically. He asked why the PPP and PML-N had backtracked from their stance on open balloting when it was stated clearly in their Charter of Democracy.
“It is easier for the government to gain more members [in the Senate elections] than our seats” but despite that, the PTI was calling for open ballot, he said. “These same people [the opposition] will cry if the PTI gets more senators than its seats,” he alleged.
Ordinance for open Senate vote promulgated
The government promulgated a presidential ordinance on Saturday to make amendments to the Election Act, 2017, to hold Senate polls through open vote.
The ordinance was promulgated after attempts by the government to pass the 26th Constitution Amendment Bill in the National Assembly failed to make headway.
It states that the president was satisfied that “circumstances exist” which rendered the ordinance necessary to take immediate action. According to its clauses, the ordinance came into effect at once and extended to the whole of Pakistan.
‘Responsibility of the government’
During the ceremony, the prime minister announced that the scope of the Ehsaas Kafalat Programme would be expanded. “We are starting to distribute money in seven million households in our next phase starting here,” he said and added that the disbursements would be transparent and fair on the basis of merit, rather than any political bias.
“I want to reassure you, it is the responsibility of the government to fulfil your basic needs”.
The premier stated there would be additional programmes to help the people such as youth scholarships for higher education and interest-free loans for affordable housing in conjunction with Akhuwat Foundation. These new measures were in addition to previous programmes of the government such as health insurance card and the Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme, he added.
The prime minister also addressed the recent victory of Pakistan in the Test series against South Africa and admitted that he didn’t have much time for cricket in his schedule, “I didn’t get to see the match”. He said the basic structure of cricket in Pakistan needed development before but it has now been fixed. “Now they will build on it to polish our talent, it will take some time but then our [cricket] team will be a world beating team.”