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Thursday Mar 04 2021
Web Desk

PM Imran Khan vows to never let the corrupt off the hook, whether in power or not

Web Desk
Prime Minister Imran Khan addressing the nation, on March 4, 2021. — Geo News
  • PM Imran Khan vows to never back down on accountability, "whether or not he is in power", and as long as he is alive.
  • Says country's problems stem from the very events that unfolded a day earlier when the government candidate lost to the Opposition candidate in the Senate race because lawmakers "sold themselves off"
  • When Yousaf Raza Gillani becomes a senator and "will allow corrupt practices to prevail, what example will we set for the younger generation?" PM asks.

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday vowed that whether or not he is in power, he will never let the corrupt off the hook and will rally the nation against them.

"Whether I am in the government or out of the Assembly, I will not spare them," he said, adding that his efforts for the rule of law in this country will continue as long as he is alive.

The prime minister's remarks came in a televised address to the nation after yesterday's upset in the Senate race.

A day earlier, the government candidate Abdul Hafeez Sheikh lost to Opposition candidate Yousuf Raza Gillani on an Islamabad general seat in a major blow to the government.

PM Imran Khan, as he began his address, said that he wishes to discuss what happened yesterday.

"This is important because what problems our nation suffers from stem from the very situation that unfolded yesterday," he said.

He said that the country's leadership comes from within the members of parliament "and here you have people becoming Senators after bribing others".

PM questions Opposition's insistence on secret balloting

"What sort of democracy is this? So I began a campaign for open balloting," PM Imran Khan said.

The premier said in the 2018 Senate elections, the party found that 20 lawmakers "sold themselves off".

"But it was not just me that had started this. The PML-N and PPP signed a Charter of Democracy favouring the open balloting method because money rules in the Senate elections," he continued.

"We presented a bill in the parliament for open balloting in Senate elections. When other parties who previously supported open balloting did not support our demand, we went to the Supreme Court.

"Even a video surfaced in which KP MPAs were receiving bribes in exchange for Senate votes," said PM Imran Khan.

The Supreme Court told the Election Commission of Pakistan that it is the electoral body's responsibility to hold transparent elections, he said.

The prime minister said that meanwhile, the Opposition parties banded together to demand a secret ballot, whereas in the past they had agreed on an open ballot.

"I now ask you. Why do you think the same parties who wanted an open ballot now geared all their efforts to have a secret ballot?" asked the premier.

PM Imran Khan said they were saying it is "unconstitutional" and "non-democratic" but asked was it not so before when they signed the Charter of Democracy.

"They even had a Senate bill asking for open ballot."

'Objective was to hang a no-confidence motion sword above my head'

"What happened was that ever since our government came into power, all the corrupt people panicked that since we had a campaign on corruption running, that we would close in on them," the prime minister said.

He said all the corruption cases were not made by the incumbent government; they pre-date it.

"I had predicted on the very first day, they will all stand together and their sole interest will be to put so much pressure on me that I relent and wrap up their cases," PM Imran Khan said.

He said that they "blackmailed" the government on a "rigged election" and then criticised the coronavirus response.

PM Imran Khan also spoke of the Financial Action Task Force's listing of Pakistan as a "grey list" country.

He explained that Pakistan is required to do what FATF says, otherwise it will be "blacklisted" and "sanctioned".

"The sanctions mean that our rupee will fall and then inflation rises [...] anything that is imported becomes expensive," he said, counting fuel, electricity, pulses, ghee, and wheat as the commodities most affected.

The premier went on to say that the parliament together had to bring about legislation as per FATF's requirement but the Opposition refused to do so, instead subjecting it to their condition of a concession under the National Reconciliation Ordinance.

"What does NAB have to do with any of this? They have a one point agenda to pressure me to get an NRO," he said.

PM Imran Khan said they planned to "use money" to "break our party apart" and bring PTI lawmakers over to their side.

"When Hafeez Sheikh was sought by them to lose, it was so the government loses majority and to paint the perception that party members walked over to their side, so a no confidence motion could be moved," he said.

"The real objective was to hang the sword of a vote of confidence over my head and blackmail me so I give them [a concession under] an NRO," he added.

'Entire drama on one seat'

The prime minister said that if open balloting had taken place, PTI would have won the number of seats it has anyway.

"We are the largest party now. But the entire drama was on the one seat. Yousuf Raza Gillani was going around giving away money and buying people's consciences," said the premier.

"When I met our MNAs, the women said they got offers [...] an old PTI lawmaker called to say she was made an offer too. There were offers of Rs20 million," he claimed.

'What reason was there to not barcode a mere 1,500 ballots?'

PM Imran Khan then took to task the Election Commission of Pakistan for failing to ensure a transparent election.

"Your biggest responsibility is a transparent election and it is your constitutional responsibility," he said to the ECP.

"Why did you go to the court and say there should be a secret ballot? Does the constitution ever allow a theft of votes and for bribery to occur like has been in the last 30 years?" the premier asked.

He said the court had allowed the Commission to hold a secret vote but have some sort of identification mechanism whereby the PTI could now have discovered the 15-16 lawmakers "who sold themselves off".

"You saved those criminals with this secret ballot and you hurt our democracy," he said, in indignation at the ECP's move to ignore the Supreme Court's provisions to identify the ballots.

"Did you not know it was your responsibility to investigate such incidents? All the agencies fall under you. This entire drama unfolded in front of everyone," he said, referring to the video where lawmakers can be seen shovelling currency notes into their bags.

"When the country's leadership takes and gives bribes, will you ask the common man to become honest then but do these things yourself?"

He quoted a Chinese saying that says "fish rots from the top".

"You allowed corruption to occur at the top, and this happened right before you, and you knew it would happen. I kept saying that markets have opened and there is an auction going on. And when the Supreme Court gave you a chance, what reason was there to not bar code a mere 1,500 ballots?" the premier asked in exasperation.

"You provided an opportunity for the country's democracy to be discredited [...] I ask you has the strength of our democracy gone up or down with this open horse-trading?" he went on to ask the ECP.

"Pakistan was the name of a great dream. It was meant to be an Islamic welfare state and Allama Iqbal said it will be a shining example for the world.

"Now this video has come and you have no idea how much money has been used and how people sold their souls and how our politics was corrupted," PM Imran Khan said.

"And if such people come into power, how will they serve the nation or recover our nation's wealth? [...] And then they say corruption is rampant in our country," he added.

PM appeals to nation to not make corruption acceptable

The prime minister then made an impassioned plea to the nation to no longer let corruption be acceptable. He said that corruption is not eradicated through laws, it is something that the society and nation clamps down on collectively.

"The nation sends out a message that one who engages in corruption is not among us. Their daughters will not be wed off to them and they will not be invited to parties," said the premier.

The prime minister also criticised certain journalists who make a case for such "corrupt" elements. "These big journalists go to the court and say that Nawaz Sharif should be allowed to broadcast his speech," he said.

"These leaders who have run off abroad, where did they get the money? And here you are asking for them to be able to make their speech," the premier said in disbelief.

"And when such a corrupt man comes out of jail, he is showered with rose petals," added, referring to PML-N leader Hamza Shahbaz's release from Kot Lakhpat jail after a 20-month-long imprisonment on corruption charges.

"Are we concerned about our children and the future generations? I ask the entire nation: if you accept them [...] is it only me then that is after them? This is your collective responsibility."

"My Pakistanis, please realise, it is [your duty as well] to make your country flourish. Or will you compromise for these thieves?”

“It is not my money that was stolen. It was all our money. They make money on contacts, on roads. They line their pockets like this,” the premier explained.

The prime minister said that when Yousaf Raza Gillani becomes a senator and "will allow corrupt practices to prevail, what example will we set for the younger generation?"

He asked the nation to dig into the past of the victorious candidate. "There was $60 million lying in Switzerland. The court told him to write a letter to send the money back to Pakistan. But he refused. For what? Some loyalty to one person? That money could have been used for hospitals and schools. And that is what he was disqualified for. And today there are celebrations that he won as a Senator.”

'Asking for the parliament's vote of confidence on Saturday'

The prime minister told his party members it is their democratic right to cast a vote of confidence on Saturday if they are unhappy with his leadership.

"You can say you do not stand with Imran Khan. I will respect your decision [...] I will go sit in the Opposition," he said.

The prime minister, shaming those who had told him they would vote for him, but then because of a secret ballot went against party lines, said that they "must think of the hereafter".

Message for PDM

The prime minister, addressing the Pakistan Democratic Movement, said that it makes not an ounce of difference to him if he loses power.

"I have no set up factories, given my relatives positions of power, or bought homes in Mayfair. I live in my home and bear my own expenses. This is because I fear the Lord and my people are going hungry.

"I have a message for you all: Whether I am in the Opposition or out of the Assembly. I will never let you off the hook until you return the country's looted wealth," he said.

The premier said he will show them how the nation can be rallied when it is a question of saving their own money.

He said he will continue to combat the "traitors of Pakistan" and the country will regain its lost glory "when they are all in jail".