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Imran hits out at PM Abbasi over criticism of Senate chairman

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Prime Minister (PM) Shahid Khaqan Abbasi criticized two state institutions and questioned their role in ‘establishing’ and ‘derailing’ democracy in Pakistan. PM Abbasi was addressing two separate functions – one on the inauguration of the first CCV line and aluminum alloy manufacturing plant at Lahore’s Sunder Industrial Estate and the other on the opening of Rai Mansab Ali Khan Kharal Bridge built on River Ravi at Nankana Sahib when he slammed Senate chairman for being ‘a little’ known in political circles and expressed his uneasiness over the Supreme Court’s (SC) verdict in Panama Papers saga. 

He seemed unhappy over the election of current Chairman Senate. He said that “an election where votes were sold and purchased got us a chairman who was not known in the political circles before. It is sad to have such a person as chairman of the Senate, an institution that represents the federation”.  

Pakistan has been facing upheaval since the ouster of former premier Nawaz Sharif. The government, instead of focusing on governance has been busy investing resources in the protection of Sharif family.

Sadiq Sanjrani, an opposition-backed 39 years old politician from Balochistan, managed to become the youngest Chairman of Senate with the help of three mainstream political parties: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM. Senators from Federally Administered Area (FATA) reportedly voted for Mr. Sanjrani.  The government alleges the opposition parties for horse-trading in order to keep PML-N at bay.

Moreover, the PM was upset for experiencing an awkward defeat during senate-chairmanship elections when his party despite having majority failed to win. He, therefore, alleged opposition parties for using money to manage the elections.

Read more: Imran Khan marries spiritual advisor in Lahore

Opposition parties, particularly PPP and PTI, are publically known as political rivals of each other but both of them managed to make an alliance to block PML-N’s way towards Senate Chairmanship. This is why some analyst have generated some conspiracy theories to establish the interference of establishment’s hidden hand in senate elections. But there has been no empirical evidence to prove such claims.

At the same time, the PM praised his own party (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) for having respect for ‘democracy’. He also alluded to his rivals (Imran Khan and others) for doing ‘Dharna-driven” politics to derail the civilian government. “We believe in the power of votes, and democracy is the only way forward. It is for the voters to decide who stays in or out of government. The country’s journey on the path of development and prosperity will continue,” the PM mentioned.

While on the other hand, he (PM) lamented over the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif in Panama Papers scandal. He criticized the top court and made it clear that his party was certain to complete its tenure. “Those who work [for the country] have to face the courts and get insulted whereas those who don’t work are neither questioned nor insulted. But come what may, our government has decided to tackle every problem head-on and continue to serve the people of this country. Our government will not comprise,” he asserted.

The Prime Minister is the Chief Executive of the country and such kind of remarks are not expected from him. Khaqan Abbasi is also criticized for publically stating that Nawaz Sharif is still his Prime Minister and that he will do his utmost to carry forward his agenda of ‘progress & development’.

He alleged that the Panama Papers brought political instability in the country. “The government has worked despite all odds and challenges. The specific legal cases, including the one on Panama Papers, eventually brought instability in the country… otherwise it would have been on the path of rapid progress,” he maintained.

PM Abbasi made interesting remarks to defend his party and narrative established by Nawaz Sharif and his daughter against the apex court. But it is also pertinent to mention that the core tenets of democracy lies in the idea of self-accountability and rule of law. This is something Pakistan’s PM conveniently ignored.

Read more: Anomalies in Senate elections: Siraj and Imran Khan urge CJ to…

Imran Khan’s Reaction

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chief Imran Khan responded to the PM on his remarks about the senate chairman and apex court’s verdict. Imran Khan in his tweets asked some questions from the PM: firstly, “If the PM of the country is not prepared to accept and respect judgement of the SC, how can others be expected to do so?” Mr. Khan was criticizing the PM for not showing respect for the decision of the apex court. Khan implicitly stated that if the leadership was not willing to respect it will be futile to expect from masses to do the same.

Secondly, “so now PM Abbasi is crying abt [about] horse-trading & money deciding Senate elections! If his party was so concerned why didn’t they support PTI’s proposals to change Senate election format to prevent exactly these shenanigans?” PTI proposed to reform the process of election of senate chairmanship to make it public. In Khan’s view, it will stop horse-trading but the PM’s party, alleges Khan, refused to legislate on the proposal.

Thirdly, “does PM Abbasi regard the debilitating $10 bn [billion] money laundering per yr [year] that is destroying Pakistan a non-issue?” The PM was defending Nawaz Shairf who is alleged to launder money and declared ‘dishonest’ by the country’s top court. Imran Khan made his point to draw PM’s attention to the allegations leveled against ousted PM.

This is why some analyst have generated some conspiracy theories to establish the interference of establishment’s hidden hand in senate elections. But there has been no empirical evidence to prove such claims.

Fourthly, “how cld [could] Panama case & it’s verdict have derailed development when it indicted NS for money laundering? Does PM Abbasi feel a money launderer shd [should] be above the law bec [because] of some imagined ongoing development?” in theory, everyone is equal before the law but it is hard to see, in practice, in developing democracies. Pakistan is an interesting example where the leadership desires to focus on slogans of economic development while ignoring the basic tenets of democracy. Khan was making a point that how a decision against a person can lead to collapse of the system? As a matter of fact, democracy values intuitions more than individual leaders.

Read more: Imran Khan escapes another shoe attack in Gujrat

The Prime Minister is the Chief Executive of the country and such kind of remarks are not expected from him. Khaqan Abbasi is also criticized for publically stating that Nawaz Sharif is still his Prime Minister and that he will do his utmost to carry forward his agenda of ‘progress & development’. Political analysts have stated that these remarks by PM Abbasi are the representation of the frustration which the ruling party is experiencing after losing Senate Chairman Election.

Pakistan has been facing upheaval since the ouster of former premier Nawaz Sharif. The government, instead of focusing on governance has been busy investing resources in the protection of Sharif family. Chief Executive of the country must refrain from making such remarks and work to strengthen democracy by taking all stake holders onboard and respecting the power of vote.


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