ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said that the elections reforms will make democracy in Pakistan strong as he invited the opposition parties to put forth their suggestions to make elections transparent for the sake of democracy.

Addressing the National Assembly budget session on Wednesday, the prime minister thanked his party members and the government allies for their support in getting the budget for the financial year 21-22 passed.

He started his speech by talking about electoral reforms. The PM said he has been vying for election reforms for the last two years in a bid to end the controversy that surrounds the electoral process. “When the PTI said that rigging took place in the 2013 election, it demanded a recount in four constituencies and gave proof of rigging, and eventually, our claim was substantiated,” the PM claimed.

Prime Minister Imran said he wanted to invite the opposition on the matter of electoral reforms for the future of Pakistani democracy. “If the opposition has any other suggestion, we are open to it,” he added. The PM said by introducing electronic voting machines (EVM), the chances of rigging would be minimised.

“The time has come that [when] we contest elections, no one worries about being defeated through rigging,” he added.

Speaking about the budget, he said Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin tabled a budget that was made according to his vision. He added that the government swallowed bitter pills to stabilise the economy.

PM Imran Khan said that the budget reflected the PTI’s three core principles of justice, humanity, and self-sufficiency and lauded his financial team for including these in the budget.

He said the government’s survival in its initial days was tough, as we had a huge current account deficit to deal with.

He said when Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan had come into power, even his government took loans from the International Monetary Fund and had to face a tough time for three years.

Prime Minister Imran thanked UAE, Saudi Arabia, and China who saved Pakistan from defaulting by providing loans.

About Afghan issue, the prime minister said they called him pro-Taliban when he told them that there is no military solution to Afghanistan.

He said we know who are our friends and who are not. It is said the US is our friend, has anyone ever heard that your friend bombs your own house? Our people were killed and they continued bombing us, the premier added.

“A terrorist is sitting in London for the past 30 years, should we do a drone attack in England?” the premier questioned.

“Now there is convergence with US on Afghanistan. As they are leaving, they are asking us to exert our leverage on them [Taliban]. What leverage do we have except that some of their family members are here,” the prime minister said.

“Should we put them in jails?” he asked.

“I have told them and President Ashraf Ghani that peace in Afghanistan is in our interest. We don’t want any strategic depth in Afghanistan, nor any favorites, we will accept whatever the people of Afghanistan decide,” he said.

We would be partners in peace with America but never be partners in conflict, Prime Minister Imran said categorically.

Talking about Indian Occupied Kashmir, he said even before the 5th of August the Kashmiris were treated in an objectionable manner by the RSS inspired BJP government.

He said he would salute the Kashmiris for their resolve.

The whole of the country stands with Kashmiris be that be the young, women, elderly.

“Whatever people say, we would not restore any diplomatic relations with India until it takes back the steps of 5th of August,” he added.

THE OPPOSITION: During the PM’s address, PML-N President and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and former president Asif Ali Zardari were conspicuous for their absence.

Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, former foreign minister Khawaja Asif, Ahsan Iqbal and Maulana Asad Mahmood of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam were also absent.

Opposition leaders Rana Sanaullah, Khawaja Saad Rafique, Raja Pervez Ashraf and Abdul Qadir Patel were among 96 opposition members present in the House during the speech.

The writer is a member of staff
The reporting desk can be reached at info@thecorrespondent.com.pk

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