The unspeakable has finally happened. A powerful PML-N figure, Federal Minister and close associate of the Prime Minister has been de-seated by the Election Tribunal on the grounds that the election process in his constituency was riddled with irregularities. While the judgment does not implicate the winning candidate, it casts grave doubts on the performance of Returning Officers, their staff and the Election Commission. For the PTI this is a moment to celebrate and say “we told you so”, since Imran Khan has all along been accusing a former head of our Apex Judiciary of allegedly influencing ROs. The NA 125 verdict cannot however provide enough grounds for a probe into these allegations being a single case. We will have to wait and see if the Election Tribunal finds similar irregularities in other pending cases such as NA 122.

For the PML-N, the Tribunal’s decision is a setback that no amount of reasoning is likely to mitigate. What the voters now anxiously await is the decision in the case of NA 122. It is this verdict, which may well be an irreparable blow to the Ruling Party (and as a spin off justify the record PTI sit-in in Islamabad).

As far as PML-N is concerned, it has two options to follow. One is to challenge the verdict in the Supreme Court and the other is to accept the decision and prove their credentials in the bye election. In the first case, if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Mr. Saad Rafiq, it will be a victory soured by doubts that may subliminally linger in the minds of the voters. If the Apex Judiciary’s verdict maintains the Tribunal ruling, it will critically embarrass PML-N and further reinforce PTI credibility.

In the event of a bye election, the contest will be a close one and may swing either way, with the advantage lying with PTI. As someone who is watching events from the outside, one cannot but feel that Khan Sahib’s party is in a ‘near win-win’ situation, but as an old politically aware friend often tells me, “Who knows what will happen in cricket and politics”.

And now that I have brought cricket into the picture, let me dally on the subject for a while. I have been associated with the game indirectly, as some of our greatest cricketing heroes were known to my family. The legendary Fazal Mehmud was a frequent visitor in our home; Mahmud Hussain, who operated from the other end and (if my memory serves) worked in General Tires, was my father’s close friend; Zafar Altaf was my senior in school with an association that continues to date and then there was Imtiaz Ahmed (our amazing opener and wicket keeper), whom I met frequently since he was my class mate’s uncle. Those were the golden days of Pakistan Cricket and the legacy was maintained and even enhanced by the likes of Imran Khan, Asif Iqbal, Zaheer Abbas and Wasim Bari (to name a few). We reached the pinnacle of success when we lifted the World Cup in 1992, but then our game began to decline, until we reached a point where we were soundly beaten by Bangladesh in the ongoing tour.

While commercialization of cricket had something to do with our headlong fall into the abyss, it was the politicization of the Cricket Board that did us in. With one of the two top slots occupied by a political favorite, who has no idea of world class competitive cricket except to hang on to perks and the other held by an octogenarian ex diplomat, who may know what cricket is, but has never stood on the crease at the highest level of the game - one cannot expect results from our playing eleven. What eludes me and many of my colleagues in the media is the reason which has compelled the Prime Minister (an avid cricket lover himself) to continue with the current appointment holders, when he has people like Majid Khan (and others), who not only have the ‘on ground’ experience, but administrative capabilities to run the Pakistan Cricket Board. It is therefore imperative for the PM to act and act now, if he wants Pakistan Cricket to reclaim its lost prestige and image.