Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan won a vote of confidence from parliament yesterday in a session marked by an opposition boycott of the vote and clashes between government supporters and opposition leaders outside the parliament building.
Khan was able to secure 178 votes, against the 172 required to win confidence in the 340-seat National Assembly through an open ballot. He had won 176 following the 2018 general elections to become prime minister.
He volunteered to seek parliament’s confidence after the government’s finance minister lost a high-profile Senate seat election earlier in the week.
Opposition parties boycotted the session, saying the Senate seat defeat was enough to show that Khan no longer enjoyed the confidence of the house, and the vote of confidence was unnecessary.
“An illegal session is being called to cheat the Pakistani people,” Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi told media outside the parliament building.
Opposition leaders were protesting and speaking to media outside parliament when a crowd of government supporters surrounded and attacked them, local media footage showed.
The footage showed an attack on Abbasi, a female opposition leader and an opposition senator.
Khan, who came to power in 2018 after a fiery campaign vowing to clean up corruption, accused the opposition of horse-trading and buying some of his party’s parliamentarians in a bid to ward off graft investigations.
Speaking following the confidence vote, the prime minister accused the opposition parties of “plundering national wealth” during their times in office.
“This was a decade of darkness used by the two parties to ruin national institutions,” he added.
He also announced electoral reforms, saying: “We are doing things; we are fully engaged with overseas Pakistanis so they can cast votes, and secondly, we are bringing electronic machines.”
“We are bringing this system so that the one who loses, accepts defeat.”
According to the breakdown, 155 PTI lawmakers voted in favour of the premier.
Besides, seven lawmakers from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, five each from the Balochistan Awami Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, three from Grand Democratic Alliance and one each from the Awami Muslim League and the Jamhoori Watan Party cast their votes supporting the prime minister.
Independent candidate Aslam Bhotani also reposed confidence in the premier through his vote.
The PM thanked government lawmakers, including his allies, for staying by his side through thick and thin.
He commended the way his party reacted after the Islamabad Senate seat upset, saying that this experience had made them tougher.
“To my parliamentarians and team, I thank you. Yesterday evening when I saw you, I realised that you were really hurt when we lost the Senate election of Hafeez Shaikh.
“But when I saw you, I felt very good because I saw a team in you and our team will get stronger. Because God will test your faith again and again,” the prime minister said.
The premier said he knew of many individual legislators who tried hard to attend the vote today but could not make it as some were facing health issues. “I thank all of you,” he said.
The premier said the government knew that money was being used in the run up to the Senate elections for the buying and selling of candidates, yet the Election Commission said a “great election” was carried out.
“I was more saddened by this, if this election was carried out well by you (Election Commission) then who knows what is a bad election,” said the prime minister cryptically.
Khan said he was “surprised” that the Election Commission had said it was a free institution in its press release when he [the premier] hadn’t said anything about their independence in his address to the nation after the Senate election.
“I request the Election Commission to get a briefing from our [intelligence] agencies on what goes on behind the scenes in elections,” the PM said, referring to the buying and selling that takes place behind the scenes.
He felt it was embarrassing how the way elections were held and named Pakistan People’s Party co-chair Asif Ali Zardari and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, saying they were “thieves” who were blackmailing his government for an NRO — a euphemism in the political lexicon to denote let-off in corruption cases against them.
He said Zardari was commonly referred to in phrases such as “one Zardari trumps all (aik Zardari sab pe bhaari)” and “Mr 10 per cent” because of his corrupt practices.
The PM further said Sharif had faked sickness to go abroad so that he could avoid the legal consequences of his corruption and theft.
“These people even tried to sabotage Financial Action Task Force legislation and had linked passing of the FATF legislation to amendments in the National Accountability Bureau law,” the PM said, adding they had put the country at stake to get rid of corruption cases against them.
He criticised Yusuf Raza Gilani, who beat ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Hafeez Shaikh in the recent Senate polls last week, as one of the most corrupt politicians in the country.
“Just look at his (Gilani’s) wealth and assets before he became the PM and do a comparison with his assets after he became the PM. The picture will be clear,” Imran said.
He said future generations of the country can only be saved if the menace of corruption is removed.
“We are on a way to economic recovery. The current account is improving constantly and now even the rupee is strengthening against the dollar without government intervention,” he said.
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