Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday questioned criticism against the open balloting method in Senate polls, saying that it is the government that stands to gain the most from a secret ballot and yet the PTI wishes to bring about transparency in the process.
His remarks came during a wide-ranging interview aired on a private television news channel.
When asked to comment on the Opposition saying that the government is “threatened that their MPAs are striking deals” ahead of the Senate polls March, and which is why it has opted for open balloting, the prime minister recalled his stance at the time his government came into power in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
“When our government was formed in KP in 2013, in the first Senate elections, there were offers made to MPs and I told them that if you are going to sell your votes, then we will dissolve our assembly,” said the premier.
“In 2018, (after coming into power) we found out 18 or 20 members had done this and we dismissed them from the party. It was then that I said [the polls] should be based on an open ballot,” he continued.
The premier also responded to the Opposition’s hue and cry over the open ballot Ordinance having supposedly sprung out of nowhere.
“Our petition was lying for five months in parliament and they say we brought it all of a sudden,” he said.
PM Imran Khan reiterated that the PTI is going ahead with the new method despite the “government always having an advantage in a secret ballot”.
He also spoke about the recently surfaced video which purportedly shows PTI members receiving large sums of money ahead of the 2018 Senate elections.
The premier said that the leaked video “only confirms what we have known for 30 years now”.
He said that people “sell their votes” and “money goes to the top”, questioning why this practice was not changed in all this time.
PM Imran Khan said the issue is not about who did it first though. It is about how — now that it is known that horse trading does occur — it reflects on the Pakistani political landscape.
“We know that MPAs sell their souls and buy people’s conscience […] how does this reflect on the Pakistani political landscape, on these people in whose hands our future lies?” he asked.
The premier went on to say that it is “known that in Balochistan the going rate is 500 million to 700 million” to become a senator.
He said if politicians do this, why does society then blame the thaanedaars and patwaaris.
Probe committee to approach state institutions
The premier said that the three-member probe panel formed today comprising Fawad Chaudhry, Shireen Mazari and Shahzad Akbar will approach the Federal Investigation Agency for assistance as well as other state institutions if need be.
He said recommendations by the committee will be sent to the Election Commission of Pakistan and the National Accountability Bureau, depending on the findings.
“Our attorney general will also inform the Supreme Court over actions being taken,” he added.
Govt employees’ protest
PM Imran Khan also spoke about the protest by government employees demanding a pay raise.
He said the salaried class in Pakistan unfortunately suffers the most as the rupee continues to fall, making everything expensive.
The premier said the government is already struggling with the poor state of economy it inherited from the previous rulers and that half of the government’s revenues go towards paying off interest for loans obtained.
“If the salaries were to be increased, there would be a greater deficit, which will be met with more loans, which will mean more interest payments, and then inflation goes up and the increased salaries will only go towards meeting higher prices,” he explained.
“We have given them a reasonable pay rise. It is as much as we can stretch to and have told them we will review it in the next budget,” he said.