Imran Khan address to the nation Pakistan
Various Pakistani news channels broadcast a live address to the nation by Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan, at the office of The Associated Press, in Islamabad, Pakistan Thursday, March 4, 2021. Image Credit: AP

Islamabad: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan made an impassioned plea to fight corruption in politics and sought the moral and political support of the people while addressing the nation on Thursday.

Accusing the winning candidate in Wednesday’s Senate polls in Islamabad of manoeuvring his way to victory, Khan said he would seek a vote of confidence from Parliament on Saturday.

“If I lose, I will happily sit on the Opposition benches,” he said.

On Wednesday, the government-supported candidate for the Senate’s Islamabad seat Abdul Hafeez Sheikh lost to the 11-party Opposition alliance Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) candidate and former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

It was a setback for the ruling party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and its allies and the prime minister announced to take the nation in confidence over the latest political situation in the country.

Use of money in politics

“It is important we should talk about it [use of money in the Senate poll] and explain it, because the problems in our country can be understood through the kind of election that happened,” the premier said. This is not a new phenomenon, but one that has been going on for 30-40 years, he said. “The one who becomes a senator and wants to become one, uses money and who do they buy? Members of Parliament.”

ECP ‘protected’ corruption

The prime minister lashed out at the PDM for “making a mockery of democracy”. He didn’t spare the Election Commission of Pakistan as well and regretted that it (ECP) was “protecting those who made money by holding Senate elections through secret ballot.”

Demand for open ballot was to make polls transparent

Khan said he started campaigning for an open ballot in Senate elections to “end the menace of corruption.” The ruling party also presented a bill in that regard, he said.

“We expelled the 20 members but then I saw that it wasn’t just me saying this. 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.

No concession for corrupt politicians

Khan reaffirmed his belief that he would not give any relaxation or concession to the ‘corrupt’ politicians of Opposition parties who had made an alliance against him.

“We did not make the corruption cases against Yousaf Raza Gilani,” the premier noted, referring to the former premier whom the Opposition had put forward as its candidate in the Senate elections 2021.

“Their only objective was to put so much pressure on me that I capitulate and give them an NRO (an ordinance that gave relief to opposition politicians in the Musharraf era). First, they tried to say the election was rigged, then they tried to build pressure on me during the coronavirus and, now, they did the same when it came time to pass the FATF bill,” the premier said.