‘If I lose, …’: Imran Khan’s emotional pitch ahead of trust vote this week

The Hindustan Times

5th March, 2021 03:28:02 printer

‘If I lose, …’: Imran Khan’s emotional pitch ahead of trust vote this week

Ahead of a vote of confidence, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Thursday that he was prepared to sit in the opposition in the event of a defeat but wouldn’t abandon his campaign against corruption.

The vote of confidence has been necessitated by Pakistan finance minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh’s shock defeat in the Senate elections on Wednesday. Shaikh was trounced by former premier Yousaf Raza Gilani, the joint opposition candidate, after lawmakers from Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf party broke ranks in the secret ballot.

In a televised address to the nation ahead of the vote of confidence in the National Assembly or lower house of Parliament on Saturday, Khan appeared to indicate there was a possibility he could lose the crucial vote. He said a loss of power wouldn’t make any difference to his efforts to rid the country of corruption, which he claimed was a key factor in the Senate elections.

“These people thought they could hang the sword of no-confidence over me, and because the chair is very important to me, I’d...end all corruption cases against them,” Khan said, speaking in Urdu.

 “I’m seeking a confidence motion [on Saturday]. “I’ll go to the (National) Assembly and say you decide. This will be an open vote and I’m asking all members to exercise their democratic right and you can say you are not with Imran Khan. I will respect that...and if you win, I’ll sit in the opposition,” he added.

While accusing Gilani and the opposition of offering bribes and inducements to swing the Senate elections, Khan called on lawmakers not to be influenced. “If I lose power, what difference does it make to me?” he asked rhetorically.

Corruption was a key theme in Khan’s speech that lasted a little more than 30 minutes and he repeatedly railed against the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), a grouping of opposition parties, and its leaders, accusing them of bribery and machinations against his government to prevent prosecution in old corruption cases. He even alleged that 15 or 16 MPs from the ruling party had “sold out” during the Senate elections.

Khan further contended corruption was the reason why he had sought open balloting in the Senate elections and accused the Election Commission of undermining democracy by allowing a secret vote and protecting those who engaged in horse-trading in polls. He also accused the opposition parties of trying to block legislation enacted by his government to implement the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) action plan to counter terror financing in order to “blackmail” him into dropping corruption cases against opposition leaders.

The prime minister also lashed out at his rival, PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif who is currently in self-exile in the UK, and accused him and his family of taking away wealth from Pakistan and indulging in corruption worth billions of dollars.

 

Leaders of opposition parties such as PML-N and Pakistan People’s Party have denied similar accusations by Khan and the PTI in the past. Commentators have also pointed to so-called anti-corruption laws and mechanisms created by military dictators in the past to target politicians.

After the upset in the Senate elections, opposition parties have retained majority in the upper house of Parliament and are now looking to bag the posts of chairman and deputy chairman, for which secret balloting will be held on March 12. The opposition now has 53 seats in the 100-member Senate, while Khan’s ruling alliance has 47 seats.

 


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