ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan bitterly criticized the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) during his address to the nation on Thursday, accusing it of "damaging democracy in the country" by holding Senate elections through secret ballot.
Khan and his ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party believe that lawmakers in national and provincial assemblies sold their votes ahead of the Senate polls on Wednesday.
While the PTI managed to win 25 seats in the upper house of parliament, it lost a major contest in Islamabad where Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh was defeated by the joint candidate of the opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement alliance.
The outcome of the election was followed by demand for the prime minister's resignation since the opposition claimed that his administration had lost its majority in the assembly.
After the government's announcement that Khan would seek vote of confidence on Saturday, he decided to address the nation in which he reminded the election commission that its foremost duty was to hold free and fair elections.
"I could not understand why you went to the [apex] court and said that Senate polls should be held through secret ballot," he said while referring to recent Supreme Court proceedings focusing on the mode of Senate elections in response to a presidential reference.
In response to the commission's argument in front of the court that it was not possible to allow open ballot under the constitution, Khan asked: "Tell me, does any constitution permits anyone to steal or bribe which has been happening [in Pakistan] for the past 30 years?"
He said that the Supreme Court had allowed the ECP to continue with secret balloting but make all votes traceable to prevent corrupt practices.
"I kept saying before the election that people were putting themselves up for sale," Khan continued. "Why couldn't you barcode 1500 ballot papers even after getting the opportunity from the Supreme Court? You gave full opportunity [to politicians] to discredit democracy in the country."
"You protected criminals through secret balloting," he added. "You have damaged our democracy. Tell me, what kind of a democracy is this where people become senators by using money?"
The prime minister also accused the ECP of "damaging the morality of the country."
Khan also told his party members that he recognized their right to say no to his leadership during the vote of confidence on Saturday, saying he would respect their decision and "sit in the opposition."