Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday lashed out at the PDM for “making a mockery of democracy”, while also calling out the ECP for “protecting those who made money by holding Senate elections through secret ballot”.
The premier made these remarks in an address to the nation where he explained the political situation in the country that emerged after Wednesday’s Senate elections in which the opposition managed to stage an upset.
“It is important to talk about it and explain it, because the problems in our country can be understood through the kind of election that happened,” the premier said at the start of his address.
He said when the PTI took part in the Senate elections six years ago, he realised that “money is used” in the polls for the upper house. This was not a new phenomenon, he said, but had been going on 30-40 years.
“The one who becomes a senator and wants to become one uses money and who do they buy? Members of parliament.
“So I was surprised when I came to know and since then I started a campaign that what joke is happening with our democracy? What kind of democracy is this?” he said, noting that the country’s leadership emerged from the Senate elections and the parliament, and the prime minister and cabinet members were chosen from among lawmakers.
“So I was surprised since then that you’re spending money, a senator becomes a senator by giving bribes, and on the other side [are] those MPs who are selling their conscience and voting after taking money, then what kind of democracy is this? Since then I started my campaign and I said since then that there should be open ballot.”
In the 2018 Senate elections, Imran said he came to know that 20 PTI lawmakers had sold their votes after taking money.
“We expelled the 20 members but then I saw that it wasn’t just me saying this, but the two main parties that signed the Charter of Democracy — the PML-N and PPP — had agreed that there should be open ballot because money is exchanged in the Senate elections,” he added, saying PML-N leaders later also issued similar statements.
In view of the above, the premier said, the PTI presented a bill in the parliament seeking open ballot for the Senate polls. “Then we saw it wasn’t happening and the parties which had said that there should be open ballot didn’t support us. We then went to the Supreme Court and a whole case was heard in the SC. [During the hearings,] judges repeatedly asked about money being exchanged, and during that a video came out of MPs taking money ahead of the 2018 Senate elections, so no one had any doubt,” he said.
He noted that while the matter was being heard in the apex court, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) opposed open ballot, while the SC repeatedly said that it was the ECP’s responsibility to conduct honest and transparent elections.
“All the parties of the PDM (Pakistan Democratic Movement) then united and said together that there should be secret ballot when they all said in the past that there should be open ballot.
“Now I ask all of you, what in your opinion was the reason [for their stance]?” Prime Minister Imran asked the nation. “These parties wanted an open ballot before, then why did they all now push for secret ballot?”
He said the opposition had termed open ballot against the Constitution and democracy but asked: “Was it not against the Constitution when they signed the Charter of Democracy? They had placed a bill in the Senate and said at that time that there should be open ballot.”
Radio Pakistan earlier quoted the Prime Minister’s Office as saying that the premier was “likely to take the nation into confidence on the prevailing political situation in the country”.
After staging an upset in the Senate elections, 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.
As expected, a hung Senate emerged on 37 seats of the upper house of parliament as the opposition and the ruling alliances now have 53 and 47 members, respectively, in the (now) 100-member Senate.
Hours after the ruling coalition’s candidate Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh suffered defeat at the hands of Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM)’s joint candidate Yousuf Raza Gilani in a major upset, the government announced that Prime Minister Imran would seek a vote of confidence afresh from the National Assembly.
Rejected votes played a significant role in the upset with Gilani securing 169 votes as against 164 bagged by Shaikh, with the number of rejected votes exceeding the margin of victory.