I just finished reading the Judicial Commission’s (the commission) final report and following are my key observations;
1. It is a comprehensive account of the commission’s proceedings. It seems unlikely that anything has been left out.
2. The commission has been very particular in following the terms of reference (TORs) and has been extremely cautious so as to not over step its authority or jurisdiction.
3. After meticulous deliberations and arguments, the commission decided to place the burden of proof on Pakistan Tehrik e Insaf (PTI) and other parties who alleged large scale and planned rigging in the general elections 2013 (GE 2013). The burden of proof is, as a matter of civil law, placed on the alleger.
4. Despite the commission’s correct observation as regards the far reaching implications of its findings, the commission wisely decided to set balance of probabilities as standard of proof and not the strict ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ standard.
5. On detailed perusal of the report it is quite clear that PTI failed to prove its allegations. Nexus between its main accusations; printing of extra ballots and absence of Form XVs, could not be established with a direct and exclusive benefit to Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) (the main accused).
6. As per the evidence produced, irregularities were owing to the negligence/incompetence of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and not result of any conspiracy.
7. An interesting thing to note was the fact that both Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Jamaat e Islami (JI) have not directly accused PMLN of rigging in their submissions before the commission. However all political parties, except PMLN, alleged ECP of failing to fulfill its duties.
8. The commission has also pointed out that grave irregularities were owing to lack of training and coordination, negligence and incompetence of the ECP and its staff.
9. NO EVIDENCE could be brought before the commission to prove – even with balance of probabilities as standard of proof – that the irregularities directly and exclusively benefited PMLN.
10. ECP had reasonable rebuttals, corroborated with documentary evidence, to allegations of foul play in employment of extra persons and printing of extra ballots. For instance it was proved before the commission that only 34 extra persons were employed, not 200 as alleged.
Also, printing of extra ballots was a practice in place since last 45 years. Furthermore the extra ballots printed were second lowest in last 10 elections, second only to 1993 elections.
11. As was already clear before the report, PTI had no evidence of its allegations against the caretaker Chief Minister Punjab; Najam Sethi.
12. The commission has given a detailed analysis of ECP’s shortcomings which can be of immense help in improving the country’s electoral process.
All in all, PTI failed to prove rigging in GE 2013. This doesn’t mean the allegations were absolutely unfounded, as has been observed by the commission. But there was no evidence to substantiate their allegations. Which makes one wonder why then did they demand the establishment of a judicial commission which would definitely require production of reasonable evidence. There are only two possible reasons, in my opinion;
1. Khan sahab and his advisors are actually that naive,
2. “someone’ promised to provide them with evidence when the time came, but backed out eventually – which is improbable and also points to their naivety.
Now coming to the reactions.
PMLN is obviously feeling victorious, vindicated even. The fact that Prime Minister chose this occasion to address the nation, not having addressed us on many other occasions that called for an address, speaks of the government’s boasting.
PTI gave a panicked reaction at first when the chairman and one of his spokespersons objected to the commission’s report being sent to government and not also to PTI. They probably forgot the 7 page document – Memorandum or Understanding – signed by them which clearly said that on completion of proceedings, the commission “shall submit its report to the government.”
However, Khan sahab accepting the report later was wise, not that he had an option as the MOU he had signed said that he would accept the findings of the commission.
ANP and MQM want action against Imran Khan and PTI, but that’s just anger and frustration for having lost their ground to PTI.
Establishment of this commission was a historic event, its report is a historic document. If it can be used to make future elections fairer, PTI would have done the greatest service to this nation any political party has ever done.