ISLAMABAD: A day after securing a resounding victory in Punjab by-polls, former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Monday reiterated his demand of holding fresh elections in the country.
“There is only one way [to rid the country of political instability]… free and fair election. When they were removing me, I had announced general elections but courts overturned my decision. I still believe it was the right call,” he said while addressing the nation following his party’s landslide victory in Sunday’s by-elections.
PTI clinched 15 provincial assembly seats out of the 20 up for grabs, dealing a stunning blow to the 13-party alliance led by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on its home turf.
According to unofficial and preliminary results, the ruling PML-N could only bag four seats.
Calling Chief Election Commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja “dishonest”, Imran in today’s victory speech asked him to resign as, according to him, free and fair elections cannot take place in the country under his supervision.
“Under this ECP, free and fair election cannot take place. The country’s biggest party does not trust it. I ask CEC to resign. We have no confidence in you. You’re a biased person and connected with a party,” he alleged.
Reflecting on last night’s victory, Imran said, “One cannot become a nation without a philosophy. When this imported government was imposed upon us via foreign conspiracy, people started asking questions… but, now we’re on our way to become a nation”.
The elites of the country have put their money outside Pakistan. Have you ever heard someone doing that in Britain or France or any other country, he asked.
“I thank Allah for the last night’s win. This nation came into being after many sacrifices. Quaide-Azam did not even let his disease known as he knew the opponents might try to delay the Partition.
“We should all be proud of ourselves…. the way people especially youth and women came out to vote, this is Naya Pakistan.”
Commenting on his party’s last tenure at the Centre, he said during the last two years, we had the best growth rate. “All indicators were pointing at the right direction. Large scale manufacturing was on the rise despite Coronavirus pandemic. It decreased unemployment and generated wealth. We had record growth in agriculture. The farmers made record profit. All records were broken in textile sectors. It was hard to find any labour free in Faisalabad. We had record remittances. In IT sector, we recorded a 75% growth.”
The former premier said, “We were with IMF for 2.5 years. We were taking Pakistan towards a welfare state. We introduced health card. Such schemes are not even given in middle income countries, let alone poor countries.”
He further said that Ehsaas programme was taking Pakistan towards becoming a welfare state. “We also offered interest-free loans.”
At such a time, he said the PTI-led government was overthrown via “foreign conspiracy”. “I and Shaukat Tareen tried to convince the powerful quarters that if our government was overthrown, the economic crisis would be unmanageable. We went to those who could do something.”
During PPP and PML-N tenures, Imran said, the country’s exports did not increase. “They were only concerned on eliminating their corruption cases. Rs1,100 billion corruption will not be forgiven,” he maintained.
“Today, Pakistan is fourth country which might default. Just like Sri Lanka, we’re going to default. Moody’s has turned our credit rating negative.”
He said Pakistan’s reserves have halved and currency is depreciating. “Rupee should have strengthened after the IMF deal… we will never get out of this financial crisis without political stability,” he maintained.
The PTI chief reiterated that free and transparent elections were the only solution to come out of the crises. “The way yesterday’s election was conducted, crisis will even deepen. Punjab government used all tactics and despite Supreme Court’s orders, they used state machinery. Police threatened people. Police became a jiyala (stalwart) of PML-N. It is contempt of SC’s orders.”
He also accused the chief election commissioner of ‘dishonesty’. “Four million people were termed dead and they were taken out of the electoral system. “CEC rejected our pleas, but thankfully the apex court overruled,” he added.
“We do not trust this CEC. We all know money is used in secret ballot and that’s why we wanted an open ballot… [Yousaf Raza] Gilani’s son was caught red-handed in the past.”
Imran said when he left the PM Office, his political opponents thought people will distribute sweets in the streets. Instead, people came out in large numbers to protest against my ouster, he added.
Imran said PM Shehbaz Sharif and his son – Punjab CM Hamza Shehbaz – were about to be sent to prison soon but they conspired and the same person became the prime minister. “This never happens anywhere in the entire world… first you have to get yourself cleared and only then you can participate in any election,” he explained.
Commenting on the administration’s high-handedness, the PTI chief said he will never forget the brutality inflicted upon the Azadi marchers. “They tried to make people fearful but still people in huge numbers came out.”
Despite CEC’s effort, the nation defeated them, he said. “Today, people have become awared. Whoever tried to steal people’s mandate, he will be defeated. The nation is moving towards achieving real freedom. I have never seen such passion in people… no one should be in any delusion that people will accept decisions taken behind closed doors.”
Coming down hard on the unity government, Imran said, “They increased petrol price and later only reduced it by Rs18 per litre. We should only seek fresh elections. We can only take our country towards progress through political stability. We never focused on increasing exports. Overseas Pakistanis are our big asset. They will invest if we get political stability and for that we need free and fair elections.”
Soon after the victory last night, former prime minister Imran, taking to Twitter, reiterated his stance that “fair polls” were only way forward. “The only way forward from here is to hold fair & free elections under a credible ECP. Any other path will only lead to greater political uncertainty & further economic chaos,” Imran said.
The PTI’s victory has not only dealt a blow to PML-N’s narrative of performance in Punjab but has also turned the tables on the politics of electables.
The chief minister’s elections, scheduled to be held on the apex court’s orders, will now see CM Hamza Shehbaz probably losing his office and Speaker Pervaiz Elahi’s ascension to power as CM Punjab.
Currently, the PML-N’s combined strength is 175 and with three more votes PML-N’s total tally will rise to 178, while the PTI on its own will have a strength of 178, excluding the vote of estranged PTI MPA also the deputy speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari.
With 10 more votes of PML-Q, Elahi’s victory is certain.
PML-N was quick to express its willingness to play by Queensberry rules and accept the results with grace.
The party leaders put the blame on difficult financial decisions taken by the government at the Centre that brought on back-breaking inflation in the country.
A leader talking to newsmen said two factors played an important role in PML-N’s defeats, explaining that besides the tough financial decisions, the second reason was the rejection of turncoats.
He said that the party has decided not to put blame on turncoats as it would further damage their reputation.