ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan urged the opposition to accept electoral reforms in the country and agree to the implementation of electronic voting machines (EVMs).
Speaking on the floor of the National Assembly, the premier offered an olive branch to the opposition and said “if the opposition has any reservations, we are ready to hear those “.
Reiterating that the only solution to allegations of electoral fraud are EVMs, the premier said he tried to speak on the first day of the budget session, but the opposition did not let him. He added that every election after 1970 has been controversial due to allegations of rigging.
Requesting the opposition to engage with the government on electoral reforms, the prime minister said it was a matter of the “future of Pakistan’s democracy”.
The premier said his government was “ready to listen” if the opposition had any other “advice” regarding the reforms, warning that if they were not passed, rigging could happen in future Senate elections and by-polls.
Prime Minister Imran said the budget should reflect three principles: justice, humanity and self-independence.
He said that when the PTI government came to power, the country’s biggest problem was the current account deficit. “[Pakistan] had the biggest deficit in history which means our currency was in danger. Our team was new and we had no experience … We took many difficult steps to stabilise our economy which were painful.”
Imran, elaborating further, said Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin had “made the budget according to my vision for Pakistan”.
The prime minister also said that his government is introducing universal health insurance in the country, and all citizens will be given a health card to avail free medical treatment in government or private hospitals of the country.
“For a poor family, the biggest expense is if someone in the family falls sick. Such families will benefit as they would also get quality healthcare.”
Imran also said the government would give interest-free loans to deserving people so they can start a business in the urban areas of the country and will give loans of up to Rs300,000 to farmers in the rural areas.
“In agriculture, we are doing many things. Punjab is introducing the Kisan Card which will have a database of farmers, and small farmers will get a subsidy on pesticides and fertilisers.”
The premier said he was happy because the budget for FY22 allocated the “highest amount for social protection in Pakistan’s history”.
Pakistan was moving towards becoming an Islamic welfare state for the first time, he said.
“By next month, we will have data on all income levels of families and according to that, the lowest 40-50pc families will be brought under the [government’s social welfare] programme. We have dedicated Rs500bn for them,” he said, disclosing that it would include interest-free loans, health cards, technical education, low-cost housing and scholarships.
A day earlier, the National Assembly had passed the budget for the new fiscal year with majority vote amid a dismal showing by the opposition.