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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday secured 178 votes from the 341-member National Assembly on a vote of confidence motion amid opposition’s boycott following an upsetting defeat of Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh against the opposition’s joint candidate Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani on a crucial Senate seat from Islamabad.

In what appeared to be a show of strength, Prime Minister Khan succeeded in securing 178 votes – six more than the required 172 simple majority – in voting on a motion as per the second schedule rules 35, 36 and 37 followed by a resolution adopted by the House with the same 178 votes.

“Today, the Prime Minister has secured 178 votes [on confidence motion] while in August 2018 he was elected with 176 votes,” Speaker National Assembly announced amidst thumping of desks and slogans by the PTI members sans opposition in attendance.

“Consequently, the Prime Minister has obtained the vote of confidence and commands the majority of the Lower House,” the Speaker further announced.

The resolution, which was read out by the Speaker, says: “That this House reposes confidence in the Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Mr Imran Khan, as required under clause (7) of Article 91 of the Constitution Islamic Republic of Pakistan.”

Addressing the House soon after the passage of the resolution, Prime Minister Khan thanked the lawmakers for reposing confidence in him, particularly the coalition partners, saying “they stood behind me through thick and thin.”

“To my party parliamentarians and team, I thank you. Yesterday evening when I saw you, I realized that you were really hurt when we lost the Senate election of Dr 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,” he added.

In his speech, the premier referred to Senate elections, strongly criticising the opposition for allegedly indulging in horse-trading in the polls and also declared Yusuf Raza Gilani as the “most corrupt” person. He added that if the assets of Gilani are checked one would found as to how much he was holding prior to his election as the premier.

He also responded to Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP’s) statement in which it had rejected the criticism on its role in the Senate polls and declared the elections as the “independent” elections in accordance with the Constitution.

“I was saddened to hear what the ECP has stated that a very good [Senate] election was conducted. If this was a good election, what would be a bad election?” Prime Minister Khan said, asking the ECP to get a briefing from the secret agencies who would reveal as to how much money was used in the recent Senate elections.

He clarified that his concerns on the Senate elections were not aimed at doing away with the independence of the ECP.

The Prime Minister maintained that his party members were receiving telephone calls and they were offered millions of rupees, starting from Rs20 million in return of a vote for the opposition’s candidate.

He said that a decision has been taken on the election reforms, adding that electronic voting machines will be introduced so that nobody could raise fingers on the credibility of elections in future to all. He said, “it is also our effort that the overseas Pakistanis also get their right to franchise.”

“We’re introducing such a [electronic voting] system on the pattern of the United States where the former President Trump claimed of rigging in the presidential polls. But when the system was examined, they found no evidence of any irregularity,” the premier added. He said it was embarrassing the way elections are held in Pakistan.

Criticizing the opposition leadership, he mentioned the names of PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, saying they were “thieves” who were blackmailing his government in order to get an “NRO”.

“All the dacoits who have been together and they believe by pressuring me they would get an “NRO”…they say Aik Zardari Sab Pe Bhaari, it is because he is the most corrupt person and is being described in the world as “Mr 10 percent” because of his corrupt practices,” he remarked.

He further maintained that Nawaz Sharif had “faked” his sickness to go abroad so that he could avoid the legal consequences of his “corruption and theft”.

The prime minister also accused the opposition of linking the passage of FATF-related legislation with amendments in the NAB laws in a total “disregard” to the country’s interest, adding that they had put the country at stake to get rid of corruption cases against them.

He also maintained that the “economy is on the path of recovery and the current account is improving constantly and now even the rupee is strengthening against the dollar without government’s [State Bank of Pakistan’s] intervention.’

The Prime Minister said the biggest pressure he was facing was to tackle the issue of inflation, which he said was a natural result of the rupee slide. “My team or my government is doing everything it can to control inflation and we will keep working on it,” he said, adding that he is aware that it is hard for the salaried class to meet their expenses.

Another challenge, he added, was the electricity tariff which according to him was due to the expensive contracts sings by the previous government. “But we’re trying to find a way to lesson the burden on people,” he added.

The Prime Minister further said that his government signed an LNG contract at 30 percent low rates as compared to the one signed by the previous government. Besides, he added, a number of new initiatives are being launched, including the wealth creation projects.

Soon after getting the vote of confidence from the house, Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui of MQM, one of the collation partners, took the floor and congratulated the premier on his success, but asked the premier to fulfil the promises that he had made with people.

“You got the confidence of the house, now it is your turn to return that confidence to the nation,” he said, asking the premier to include the coalition partners in decision-making processes.

Dr Fehmida Mirza of the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) also congratulated the premier, saying that the government’s allies would always stand with the premier whenever there is a threat to the continuity of democracy despite any grievances they might have.

Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar, chief minister Balochistan Jam Kamal, Senate Chairperson Sadiq Sanjrani, governor Sindh Imran Ismail and governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Shah Farman also witnessed the proceedings from the galleries.

The special session was called after the premier voluntarily sought a trust vote following an upset in the Senate elections.

Independent candidate Aslam Bhotani also took part in the process and reposed confidence in the premier through his vote. As the opposition parties had already announced boycott of the session, independent MNA from Mohsin Dawar was the only one present on the opposition benches who however did not vote in favour of the motion despite lobbying by Defence Minister Pervez Khattak and Minister for Communication Murad Saeed.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021