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The end of the saga

Opinion

July 26, 2015

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Rejecting the allegations levelled by the PTI, the three-member judicial inquiry commission has formally declared that “the General Elections-2013 were organized and conducted impartially, honestly, fairly, justly and in accordance with the law.”
The report of this apex probe body has somehow marked the conclusion of more than a year long – with a 126-day climax time – saga in Pakistan. As a matter of fact, transforming the villain into a hero and vice versa, the last chapter has eventually overshadowed this saga full of twists and turns.
The top leaders of the PML-N have gone through a sort of roller-coaster ride since the PTI levelled allegations of electoral rigging against the ruling party last year. Significantly marginalising it politically, these rigging allegations also caused the PML-N government to suffer a severe legitimacy crisis. Now, as the PML-N has been cleared of all charges by the inquiry commission, it is being presumed that the party would regain its lost political credibility, relevance and popularity soon.
During the entire proceedings, we hardly saw the PTI produce anything substantial before this commission in support of its rigging allegations. Soon after the formation of this inquiry body, Imran Khan and other prominent leaders of the PTI claimed they would produce a ‘truckload of evidence’ before the commission. But ironically, now it seems that the tyre of the truck carrying the evidence in bulk quantity, regarding the so-called 35 punctures, has been punctured somewhere on the way before reaching the building of the inquiry commission in Islamabad.
Under Article 225 of the constitution of Pakistan, an election tribunal is the only legal forum for electoral dispute-resolution in the country. In case of any electoral dispute, the Representation of People Act, 1976 provides a legal remedy to an individual candidate to file an election petition in the election tribunal duly constituted by the ECP.
However, to

pacify the protesting activists of the PTI, the federal government fabricated another legal forum to ascertain the validity of the last general elections by establishing this judicial inquiry commission. As a matter of fact, quite contrary to its earlier tall claims regarding massive and systematic electoral rigging, the PTI has miserably failed to legally prove these allegations on both legal forums.
During their 126-day long sit-in in Islamabad, PTI leaders, including Imran Khan, overplayed the rigging allegations to compel a democratically elected government to step down. During this period, Imran Khan constantly accused various individuals of rigging and manipulating the 2013 general elections.
First, the former CJP Iftikhar Chaudhry was blamed for manipulating these elections with the help of RO’s. Then, Najam Sethi, the former caretaker Punjab chief minister was severely criticised for allegedly repairing ‘35 punctures’ in these elections to the benefit of the PML-N.
In the same manner, Geo TV and its owner were also bashed for airing an early victory speech of Nawaz Sharif in the late hours of May 11, 2013. Finally, it was alleged that the PML-N had managed to illegally print some extra ballot papers by hiring 200 printing workers from Urdu Bazaar in Lahore.
In fact, now all the allegations levelled by PTI chairman Imran Khan seem to have been based on hearsay evidence. In support of his rigging allegations, Imran Khan has often been quoting the statement PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari regarding the role of former CJP Iftikhar Chaudhry and his subordinate ROs in the last general elections. Now the very reason for his belief for the so-called 35 punctures has been discovered to be only a social media tweet, tweeted by an insignificant party leader of the PTI. Similarly, it is also believed that he had pointed to the owner of Geo TV channel only to appease some powerful quarters in the country at that time.
All these facts essentially indicate that either Imran Khan is just an impulsive sort of being, or too naive to understand how some anti-PML-N elements have extensively been exploiting him for their vested interests. Whatever be the case, this incident has badly exposed the poor leadership qualities and political vision of the PTI chairman.
The PTI and its chairman should have realised that the rhetoric regarding electoral rigging was, by no means, absolute. This rhetoric may have had some relevance on the top of the container, but certainly not at an apex legal forum like the judicial inquiry commission. This rhetoric should have been abandoned by the PTI as soon as it ended its sit-in in Islamabad last year.
The PTI’s so-called Azadi March should have positively contributed something to the political system of Pakistan. This energy must have been utilised to introduce some extensive electoral reforms in the country to avoid similar controversies in future. The irregularities in the last general elections question the very capacity of the ECP to conduct free and fair elections. The administrative mismanagement in the recently-held local bodies elections in KP demand a vibrant election body that can ensure free, fair and transparent elections in the country through better election management.
The long sit-in and agitation by the PTI have made the country’s economy suffer a loss to the tune of hundreds of billions of rupees. This movement has hardly added anything positive to the national political discourse. Instead, it has been instrumental in further deteriorating the already-weak political institutions in the country. Beside this, the whole fiasco has badly shaken the trust of many committed followers and sincere supporters of the PTI, who had hoped that Imran Khan would bring real change to Pakistan.
Ironically, now declaring the allegations regarding the 35 punctures to be a mere political statement, this ‘protagonist of change’ has proved that he had only been playing politics in the name of change. Therefore, now the PTI and its leaders need serious introspection.
The PTI chairman should apologise to the nation for his recent irresponsible political behaviour, as he did earlier for extending unqualified political support to a military dictator like Gen (r) Pervez Musharraf.
The writer is a Lahore-based lawyer. Email: [email protected] ymail.com

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