Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan will seek a vote of confidence from parliament after Hafeez Shaikh, the government’s finance minister, lost a high-profile Senate seat election to former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani yesterday.
“Imran Khan and his party has reached a consensus decision that he will take a vote of confidence from the parliament,” Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told a news conference.
Gilani, who belongs to the Pakistan People’s Party, enjoyed the support of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), an alliance cobbled together by a dozen opposition parties against the embattled government of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The Gilani-Shaikh duel carried a huge symbolic value as the PDM had said in the run-up to the Senate elections that Gilani’s victory would mean a vote of no-confidence against the prime minister.
According to an unofficial tally, out of the total 341 votes, 340 were polled. Gilani bagged 169 votes, while his rival Shaikh received 164 votes. Seven votes were rejected.
Qureshi alleged that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had failed to ensure transparency in today’s polls as per the orders of the Supreme Court.
He said the government was not blaming the ECP for the defeat, but were only reminding it that it had a constitutional responsibility of conducting free and fair elections.
“A video had surfaced which proved that horse trading indeed took place and votes were being sold,” he recalled, referring to the grainy video circulating on the social media a day earlier purportedly showing Gilani’s son Ali Haider apparently advising unnamed ruling party legislators “on how to waste a Senate vote”.
Qureshi even questioned Gilani’s decision to contest the Senate polls, suggesting the latter was not chosen on merit but due to “other reasons”.
“I know Gilani very well as he hails from the same town as me [Multan]. He knows very well that he has not been made the candidate on the basis of numbers. I held a press conference in Multan in which I expressed surprise as to why a former prime minister would go so low as to nominate himself for a Senate seat.”
Qureshi claimed that the opposition parties used every dirty trick in the book for Gilani’s win which has vindicated the narrative of Imran Khan. “It (the narrative) is not evident just today, as such practice has also happened in the last Senate elections as well.”
“Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is a political party that believes in freedom of speech. We take our members on board on every issue and take their opinions. It is not right to say that some of our members were disgruntled,” the foreign minister said.
He maintained that if the members were not happy with the party leadership, then they should have been more straightforward and conveyed their concerns to the premier, “like in (the) Sindh province two of our members openly declared that they were not happy with the party”.
Qureshi said If PTI members were disgruntled, then they should not have voted for the women’s seat as well. “The thing is that they were not disgruntled, but were paid,” he added.
Talking about PM’s decision to take the vote of confidence, he said his party has taken the morally correct position following the vision of the prime minister.
“Imran Khan has clearly stated that he is the prime minister of the entire Parliament,” Qureshi pointed out.
Calling for the use of technology to conduct future elections in the country, Federal Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhary said at the moment a candidate spends money to buy votes for the next term and recovers that amount while remaining at the helm.
Chaudhry also took to Twitter to explain the government’s decision.
“Imran Khan has given a big challenge today by deciding to go for a fresh vote of confidence. The government will not rule like rats. The opposition must now prove its majority or else accept the guilt of buying elections,” he wrote on his official handle.
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