‘Going rate to become a Balochistan senator Rs500-700 million,’ says PM Imran Khan

Prime Minister Imran Khan pictured during an interview, on February 11, 2021.

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday said that the going rate to become a senator in Balochistan “has now hit Rs500-700 million”, as he explained why the PTI government seeks to introduce the open balloting method in Senate polls.

The prime minister was speaking during an interview aired on a private television news channel.

PM Imran Khan said that the PTI is going ahead with open balloting despite the “government always having an advantage in a secret ballot”.

“The government can always get their way.”

The prime minister recalled his stance at the time his government came into power in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

“When our government was formed in KP in 2013, in the first Senate elections, there were offers made to MPs and I told them that if you are going to sell your votes, then we will dissolve our assembly,” said the premier.

“In 2018, (after coming into power) we found out 18 or 20 members had done this and we dismissed them from the party. It was then that I said [the polls] should be based on an open ballot,” he continued.

The premier also responded to the Opposition’s criticism over the open balloting Ordinance being promulgated “overnight”.

“Our petition was lying for five months in parliament and they say we brought it all of a sudden,” he said.

‘How does this reflect on Pakistani politicians?’

PM Imran Khan spoke about the recently surfaced video which purportedly shows PTI members receiving large sums of money ahead of the 2018 Senate elections.

The premier said that the leaked video “only confirms what we have known for 30 years now”.

He said that people “sell their votes” and “money goes to the top”, questioning why this practice was not changed in all this time.

PM Imran Khan said the issue is not about who did it first though. It is about how — now that it is known that horse trading does occur — it reflects on the Pakistani political landscape.

“We know that MPAs sell their souls and buy people’s conscience […] how does this reflect on the Pakistani political landscape, on these people in whose hands our future lies?” he asked.

Three-member panel to probe leaked video

The premier said that a three-member probe panel formed today comprising Fawad Chaudhry, Shireen Mazari and Shahzad Akbar which will probe the leaked video will approach the Federal Investigation Agency for assistance as well as other state institutions if need be.

He said recommendations by the committee will be sent to the Election Commission of Pakistan and the National Accountability Bureau, depending on the findings.

“Our attorney general will also inform the Supreme Court over actions being taken,” he added.

Govt employees’ protest

PM Imran Khan also spoke about the protest by government employees demanding a pay raise.

He said the salaried class in Pakistan unfortunately suffers the most as the rupee continues to fall, making everything expensive.

The premier said the government is already struggling with the poor state of economy it inherited from the previous rulers and that half of the government’s revenues go towards paying off interest for loans obtained.

“If the salaries were to be increased, there would be a greater deficit, which will be met with more loans, which will mean more interest payments, and then inflation goes up and the increased salaries will only go towards meeting higher prices,” he explained.

“We have given them a reasonable pay rise. It is as much as we can stretch to and have told them we will review it in the next budget,” he said.

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