Following a stormy, controversial election day, the outrage caused by the failure of the Result Transmission System (RTS), the delay in announcing of the results, and the withholding of form 45 in several polling stations, had reached a tipping point. A barrage of press conferences and statements from the loosing candidates and party leaders gave off the impression that a political showdown was imminent.
What followed next - a slow dissipation of resolve and anger – owed as much to the post-election political environment and public, which discouraged placing hurdles in the path of the newly formed government, as much as it did to Imran Khan’s acceptance speech. Imran Khan’s gracious offer to assuage all the allegations by the different parties undercut any agitation that could have followed, by snatching any justification for it. This ‘grace period’ of sorts was contingent on one thing; that Imran Khan follows through on his promise; after all he had made it to Pakistani public itself.
Now with the government mostly formed and the first orders of business being already underway in the new Cabinet, the Leader of Opposition, Shahbaz Sharif, and the former Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, have called on the government to come through on their “unconditional promise with him on the day of the prime minister’s election in the National Assembly on August 17”. While the complete press conference by the president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was a litany of criticisms on the early performance of the government, the majority of it is standard fare coming from the opposition. However, it is the question of forming a “powerful parliamentary commission to probe allegations of rigging” that should draw the most attention, and a prompt response.
That prompt response was exactly what we got, albeit not exactly in the manner that was expected. In a midst of a point by point refutation to PML-N’s criticisms the Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry claimed that the opposition had “failed to explain the nature of the perceived rigging.” He went on to say that the opposition was using the issue of election rigging as a “political stunt” without producing any concrete evidence.
Fortunately, knee-jerk counterpunches were not all that the Information Minister offered. He assured the people that the government was ready to constitute a commission to probe alleged rigging in the general elections as per the demand of the opposition; asking the opposition to now do their part and submit their terms of references.
The ball is back in the opposition’s court, but it is not going to stay there. A truly transparent probe into this matter will require constant cooperation, and the path ahead is long.