Thursday June 30, 2022

Election tribunal has opened Pandora’s Box


By MAK Lodhi
May 06, 2015
LAHORE: At long last – almost two years – contours of a rigged general election, held on 11 May, 2013, have started taking a somewhat concrete shape, lending credence to several earlier reports that manifestly indicated that the sanctity of the ballot box had indeed been violated.
Cases were filed in courts, pitched battles fought in streets, ‘dharnas’ organized and a hyped media tested the nerves of the nation before an election tribunal gave its verdict and declared that massive rigging was held in NA-125 and PA-155.

Almost same charges had been leveled by Leader of the Opposition in Senate, Ch Aitzaz Ahsan, for another constituency of Lahore. In an interview to Newsweek dated 11 November, 2014, he had alleged that, “…the election in Lahore’s NA-124 constituency, to my knowledge and awareness of the facts, was massively rigged. There were 264 polling stations for NA-124 and so there should have been 264 sealed bags with election material. When we officially inspected these, as many as 152 bags were not sealed or had their seals broken — this is fundamental, basic proof of rigging. Another 80 had other defects, including proven destruction of the record and the absence of counterfoils, without which there is no way of telling how many ballots had actually been issued on Election Day. There are other constituencies, like NA-139 in Kasur and NA-118 in Lahore, that have also yielded evidence of systemic and comprehensive rigging.”
Mr Ahsan hadn’t hurled the charges in the air. He had officially inspected the election material of the constituency he had been defeated from. The political party that he hails from has recently filed an application with the Judicial Commission to open the record of 65 constituencies.
A report had been published as early as 14 May, 2013 (only three days after the general election), which claimed that at 49 polling stations, including 32 from Punjab, the results had shown that the number of votes

polled had “far exceeded the registered voters”.
The data collected by Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN), a prestigious election monitoring organization, showed that the 32 polling stations from Punjab had registered more than a hundred percent turnout, which is unbelievable anyway.
All this evidence is apart from monumental struggle launched by the PTI leader Imran Khan, knocking almost every door for justice. Each time he was told to go to Election Tribunal. Whenever he said the evidence lies inside the bags, he was ridiculed. The evidence did come out of the bags ultimately.
Now the larger picture emerging is that some constituencies were selected for rigging which in all likelihood took place during the later stage of voting on the polling day or after the polling time was over. Some people may have been assigned the job to insert additional votes into ballot boxes. That is why there were no counterfoils duly signed by returning officers and presiding officers. It seems less probable that the signing authorities were so negligent of their duty. There can be only a few omissions in such a case. It means the officers in charge of the polling station may not be privy to additional votes thrust into ballot boxes. It was also found that seals of the bags containing voting material were broken which may indicate that the nefarious act in some cases may have been committed even after the records were sealed. It is also probable that the officers on duty, if they had perpetrated the act under duress, may have deliberately left the evidence. There can be many ways to interpret the available evidence sprouting from the bags containing election material from each polling station. It leads one to think that the election may have been selectively rigged.