The controversy surrounding the irregularities in the general elections – particularly the fact that in some constituencies the polling agents were not present to sign the mandated Form-45s – seemed to have died down after an initial outcry following the result. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) faced severe criticism for the failure of its Result Transmission System (RTS) software and the inexplicable delay in the collection of the final tally, but all the while it continued to assure the nation that there were no widespread and systematic irregularities in the elections, everything else was fine, only the software failed. As time went on and the opposition conceded the elections, the outrage was forgotten too.

But the recent audit of Form-45s has revealed that 95 per cent of the total 78,467 such forms tabulating results of the count prepared for the elections in 249 constituencies of the National Assembly had not been signed by the polling agents of political parties and candidates. That is a staggering number, one that calls into question many claims made by the ECP. Furthermore, their flippant reaction to the audit, saying that they reject it and will conduct it based on their own “authentic data”, has only made matters worse.

The end result is that the form-45 controversy – and the abysmal management of the 2018 general election by extension – is returning to the fore. Leading the charge are the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which has asked the ECP to make public surveillance camera footage of the constituencies from where party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari contested polls. The election cell of the party has gone on to challenge the ECP to release the footage from other polling stations too, many of whom were equipped with security cameras because of their sensitive locations.

This challenge, and the storm of questions that now besets the ECP will put its commitment to transparency to test; will the body open itself up for further scrutiny, or continue to shrug off accusations with excuses?