Pakistan’s public and media is driven more by perceptions than by statistical analysis; within the statistical data of 2008 and 2013 elections lie hidden a trove of data and inferences that prove mass scale rigging in 2013 election. In 2013, PMLN could have emerged as a fringe and never an absolute winner.
Figures presented in this column are not new. They were presented through articles in newspapers from 2012-2015 as also in presentations to the PTI team managing the party case in the Judicial commission.
Political parties that lost had no urge to study this data and point out irregularities. Though PTI did take a lead role in the agitations, its zeal, zest and fervour was not translated by its statistical and legal team in the Judicial Commission. Much that was gained in the streets was lost by a weak statistical and legal team.
Even the media failed to highlight the issue and remained content with sensationalism.
The biggest culprit is ECP that despite all data and prowess failed to carry out an objective post-election analysis and determine what went wrong. Obviously it remained under the very strong influence of Chief Justice Chaudary Iftikhar.
For planners of 2013 elections, the biggest issue was the unknown statistical data that could impact election results. It was difficult to ascertain the choices exercised by new enlisted voters. With the rising popularity of PTI in youth (bulk of new enlisted voters) it was estimated that the challenge to PMLN would come from PTI. So solutions and methods had to be devised to facilitate commitments to NRO and COD to ensure there were no major upset. This was managed through rigging evident in skewed voting patterns and independents. The crime scene was in Punjab with maximum National Assembly Constituencies.
The comparisons of 2008 and 2013 election statistics reveal alarming similarities and cannot be incidental. They were in fact planned.
The voter turnout in KPK, Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan jumped by an even 12% which is not a coincidence, rather an indication that election managers fudged with a calculator. Skewed voting was 8%.
The figure of 4.29% is ominous and repeated.
Total registered voters in 2013 were 84,207,524 as compared to 80,724,009 in 2008 with an addition of new 2,993,904 votes. This was an addition of 4.29 %.
By increasing the voter turnout from 44% in 2008 to 55% in 2013, the additional votes polled increased from 34,980,069 in 2008 to 45,388,404 in 2013 an increase of 11,237,413 votes. This figure is exactly 4.29%.
The major beneficiary of 2013 elections was PMLN. Their vote bank in 2013 increased from 8,651,416 to 14,874,104 by 1,835,858 votes (4.07%). Here again the figure of 4.29% is significant.
The vote bank of Independents increased from 4,913,476 in 2008 to 5,880,658 in 2013 by over 10%. This resulted in 20 independents that later joined PMLN.
This skewed pattern of election 2013 is littered all over the statistics of the election.
There were 91 NA seats won by PMLN that indicate an unusual pattern of skewing. 40 seats were won by incumbents with excess of 1,466,766 votes and 862,983 extra ballots.
14 seats were won on party incumbency with 536,509 extra votes and 236,011 extra ballots.
PMLN also won 41 new seats at the cost of other parties with an increase of 1,678,911 votes and 962,587 extra ballots.
All told, besides 20 independents, the total numbers of unusual votes were 3,682,186 with 2,061,581 extra ballots. This figure was far more than the newly registered 2,993,904 votes and explains their rise of vote bank by 4.29%.
Based on scientific studies on skewed patterns there were at least 78 NAs where unusual patterns indicated rigging. These were the seats gifted to PMLN to ensure the continuation of NRO and the reason why, PPP despite being a petitioner shied away during the proceedings of the Election Commission Inquiry.
It was not just PTI contesting the fairness of elections. PTI assertions were reinforced by PPP, PMLQ and PMLJ as cited by the Judicial Commission. PPP case was built on NA124 and its white paper ‘Robbing an Election’ and proposed 68 constituencies in Punjab for investigation. Perhaps it was PMLQ that was more direct in alleging pre poll rigging and even named retired Chief Justice Iftikhar. It concentrated on 24 constituencies in Punjab. But these allegations were never far from reality but not pursued relentlessly.
Had all four political parties pursued these statistics, there would have been no option for the commission but to invoke its inquisitorial jurisdiction. The elections would have been determined unfair and spared Pakistan the socio-economic damage it suffered for the next three years.
There are many points brought out by this analysis.
PMLN was never as popular a political party as shown by biased surveys and apt media management. Twenty odd independents and many others have already abandoned it. Chaudary Nisar Ali’s Jeep faction could make a major dent. Combined popularity of PTI, dent caused by Chaudary Nisar and defections will reduce PMLN far below its original popularity strength of 69 seats in 2008. It could be reduced to below 30 seats.
This is where the skewed turnouts of 2008 will be helpful in making an electoral prediction.
It is estimated that 3,682,186 unusual skewed votes (rigging) will either not be there reducing the turnout by over 8% or would not matter.
A major strategy on part of PTI and Chaudary Nisar should be to increase this voter turnout from an estimated 47% to beyond 55% to ensure a majority in Punjab. PTI should target over 12 million votes as compared to 7.7 million votes in 2008. This translates to 4,300,000 additional votes. This would ensure a simple majority beyond 100 seats.
In case PTI cannot turnout the magic figure of 12 million votes, then a simple majority is not in sight. The low voter turnout may have unpredictable results. PTI will have to look towards coalition partners amongst independents, Chaudary Nisar Group, MQM, PSP, Balochistan Group and smaller political parties. In any case it will be the seats in Punjab and KPK that shall determine the formation of the next government.
But the next challenge for PTI will be in the Senate where PPPP has a majority. With PMLN it has a simple majority. This could block major legislations at least till April 2020 or maybe beyond. In this context it is absolutely important for PTI to garner additional 4 million votes and with allies, more than 2/3rd majority in the National Assembly.
The challenge for Imran Khan is to resurrect his demotivated activist cadres. If he succeeds and electoral campaign is infused with an elixir, the Red over Green may finally prevail.
The writer is a political economist and a television anchorperson.