On 11 May, an article I authored called, Simulative Analysis, appeared in The Nation. It was an academic exercise at making predictive analysis through simulations; if NDI with small representative samples could make surveys, it was possible to make accurate conclusions through available statistics of the past and present. Operations Research and Systems Analysis (ORSA) methods were used to derive results and make objective conclusions. Voter turnouts, party positions, i-votes cast and identification of firm vote banks of political parties were taken into consideration. Deletion of unverified votes and enlistments of new votes were factorised. The trend probabilities were based on voter affiliations in the past with advantages granted to parties with election experiences. Pakistani Tehreek e Insaf (PTI), contesting large scale elections for the first time was given minuses for hasty planning, inexperienced polling agents and ignorance of the unwritten rules of the game called rigging.
I was cognisant that the Elections 2013 will be impacted by hitherto unknown data. One critical conclusion after repeated simulation was voter turnout. If it remained close to 20%, old political parties would excel through fixed vote banks. With higher turnouts, traditional political parties would be adversely hit by the absence of bogus votes of 44,027,567, now removed from the electoral rolls. The total addition of the new 40,179,957 and the percentage polled therein would be decisive. PTI appeared to be the major beneficiary. As the turnout would rise, PTI would overtake old horses.
2012 began with 44,027,567 verifiable votes in the ECP lists. On a petition filed by PTI, 37,186,053 votes were removed. This meant that only 54% votes of 2008 remained verified. In 2008, only 34,980,069 voters (43.65%) cast their votes. Therefore at par with unverified votes the actual turnouts were halved for purpose of projections in 2013. Consequently PMLN’s share of votes in 2008 was halved from 26.81% to 13.40% but compensated due to their electoral experience. The same was also the case of other parties excluding the PTI.
Post-election 2013, voter turnout increased from 43.65 to 55.02%. It was lower than expected. PMLN bagged 14,874,104 (26.25%) and MQM 5,880,658 (10.57%) of the votes. PTI, the main challenger, could only bag 7,679,954 (19.11%) from the new votes. All other parties suffered a decline in for reasons mentioned in the survey. If we presume that the old vote bank of the parties remained intact, a question arises, where did the remaining 22,473,384 or 44% of the new registered votes go? Was the high turnout deliberately downgraded?
The voter turnout on Election Day was unprecedented. Many voters were denied when polling was called off. Extension time was improperly disseminated. This raises doubts. Was polling deliberately slowed; what was the percentage of rejected votes; were polling bags replaced; and what were other electoral irregularities committed that day?
Amongst the old political parties only PMLN and MQM have shown a rise in their turnout percentages. This corroborates with maximum allegations of rigging coming from Punjab and urban Sindh.
In the new voter registrations, PMLN leads by 26.25% followed by PTI with 19.11%. Curiously, the total numbers of votes received by PTI are far less than its membership. Considering that everyone who votes for a particular party need not be its member implies that all three parties registering rise in popularity also got votes from voters who were not registered members. Something seems missing here?
Even if we assume there was no rigging, the PMLN-PTI parity ratio at 1.94:1 should have translated into far more seats for PTI than it ultimately got. This means that given the voter statistics, the winning margins were neck to neck in favour of PMLN. However in reality, in some of the constituencies, the votes accounted were far more than the registered, votes rejected were more than the winning margins or bogus votes were included in the winner’s total. There were also reports of high handedness during counting. In some stations, polling agents of rival parties were locked up.
The projections posted for PPP and other parties proved accurate. However, PMLN got far more seats than projected and PTI far fewer than calculated. At any turnout above 40%, PTI should have bagged 130-150 seats. Given the lack of homework in Sindh, Balochistan and Non-Muslims, a figure of 90-100 seats for PTI was predicted as more reasonable.
However the election 2013 statistics posted by ECP defy all calculation and are baffling. They necessitated a complete recheck of why the analysis went wrong. The obvious conclusion is widespread rigging at the level of returning officers.
NA 118 makes an interesting case study and a reference point to unravel irregularities. The winner bagged 1,000,300 votes against 43,000 of PTI. Polling agents and candidates were excluded during counting. Results were announced in favour of PMLN after two days. In November 2013 the tribunal agreed to verifications through NADRA on Risk and Cost Basis. The four months stay of the PMLN winner was vacated in March. The tribunal appointed Justice (R) Munir Mughal as Court Commission to oversee the NADRA verifications. The report has come up with startling facts.
The commission received 94 sealed polling bags out of a total of 325. Others were tampered. 65 bags were unauthorised and did not belong to ECP. Record of 88,000 votes did not exist. 36,000 votes had incomplete record. With scan results pending, only 44,000 votes out of 170,000 could be verified. After thumb verifications this shall dip further. The complainant spent over Rs. 5,700,000 as Risk and Cost. It is likely that elections in NA 118 will be declared invalid. NA 118 sets a bench mark for verifying rigging in all contentious constituencies. Amazingly, this is a constituency PTI never considered worth contention.
I was present in a polling station of NA 125 in Lahore. Long lines of women were deliberately held for hours. Many had ink marks on thumbs but had not voted. I accompanied Justice (R) Kayani Member Punjab of ECP inside a polling booth to verify complaints on the spot. Vote stamping was rampant. On a wink from a returning officer, a squad of the elite force assaulted me with butts, kicks and punches. Justice Kayani who knew me, stood a bystander as if he was there to ensure polling as planned. Another polling station in the same constituency was locked from the inside while votes were stamped. We had to force the doors open.
The story of 35 punctures, rigging allegations by political parties and the number of seats won by the ruling party against its ratio raisescredible doubts.My analysis of an international shadow cannot be ruled out. It is time the ECP takes a proactive approach to salvage its reputation lest people lose faith in the electoral politics of Pakistan.
n The writer is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a political economist and a television anchorperson.