The see-saw tilts back in Pakistan Tehrik e Insaf’s (PTI) favor.
A short term ecstasy of vindication brought on by cantonment board local government elections in NA 125 ended for Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) when an election tribunal disqualified Khwaja Saad Rafique and ordered re-election in NA 125.
Those who see a very visible nexus between this decision and a probable decision of the Judicial Commission (the Commission), formed to probe allegations of rigging in general elections 2013 (GE 2013), are not dreaming.
True that a single constituency cannot be representative of an entire general election. True that decisions of the election tribunal, comprising of High Court judges, are not binding on the Judicial Commission that comprises of Supreme Court justices.
Nevertheless, NA 125 is one of four constituencies initially identified by PTI as sample for inquiry into allegations of rigging. The whole case of PTI rested on these four constituencies for well over a year. While the Commission continues its proceedings, a subordinate forum has just endorsed PTI’s allegations to the extent of one constituency. While the Commission finds itself short on time to go into minute details of an election process, the tribunal has just given its findings after intricate inquiry stretching over two years. The decision of NA 125 election tribunal will, without a shadow of doubt, work in aid of the Commission.
Pertinent to note that the election tribunal has not found an isolated instance of foul play by, or on behest of a candidate in NA 125. It is obvious that irregularities and negligence on part of returning officers and election commission of Pakistan (ECP) has been found as the primary reason for ordering a re-election. Now that brings merit to PTI’s allegations against the ECP as regards their role in rigging. It also gives credence to accusations pertaining to an organized plan of rigging the GE 2013 through returning officers (ROs). If the Judicial Commission finds similar irregularities in other constituencies of the country, which it probably will, it will be reasonable to assume similar RO involvement on a larger scale. That would in turn move the Commission to hold in favor of PTI and against PMLN.
A commission that seemed toothless in light of the memorandum of understanding between PTI and PMLN, has just been given a sharp set of K9 dentures. If the reports submitted by NADRA and ECP point to irregularities, likes of which have been found in NA 125, the Commission can hold the GE 2013 void.
This decision is indeed a blow for PMLN but it packs a sharper blow for Saad Rafique. The poor guy probably wants to smash his head somewhere, since he believes he could have won the elections without any help from the ROs or “hidden hands”. There wasn’t a recount, he has been disqualified for large scale irregularities.
Rigging in GE 2013 is almost an established fact. The clumsiness in it, hints at PMLN’s connivance. Fact of the matter is that it does not matter who bagged how many votes anymore. Even if a PMLN candidate keeps his lead after subtracting bogus or unverifiable votes, the election is still void since the ECP failed to fulfill its constitutional obligations. PMLN may have ended up with a government in Punjab and a coalition government in centre had the elections not been so irregular and shady. Now, it may lose both.
This is not NA 125′ decision, this is a prelude to the Commission’s decision. PMLN should now prepare for next elections, in some ways it already has begun its campaign.
PTI too, needs to start preparing. Rigging did deny them a few seats, but their own immaturity and ill-organization denied them more. This will be a second chance; one rarely provided to any party in Pakistan’s politics. PTI will have to rid its self of organizational lacking. PTI does not have much time, if elections are held this year.
All in all this decision and what it leads to, promises to be a wonderful new precedent in Pakistan’s politics. A very democratic outcome aided by some very discreet non-democratic actors.