Back Ground

Though most political parties distanced themselves from the 126 day Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf sit in, they have exposed the hypocrisy of their anti-Imran Khan stance by rushing to the Judicial Commission. Even critics admit that PTI has set a trend for the course of future electoral politics.

There are many question marks on the fairness of elections that need to be addressed by a combined effort of research organisations, witnesses before the judicial commission and the commission itself. These would expose systemic organisational and ethical flaws, wilful or implied complicity, glaring areas of suspicion and beneficiaries. Bits and pieces of evidence may never be enough. The Judicial Commission and its Joint Investigation Teams (JIT) will have to go through the tedious process of collection, collation, investigation of concrete evidence. Depending how it is handled, this could either be futile, or bear fruit.

Role of Ex-Chief Justice of Supreme Court

Officials of the Ministry of Law and National Accountability Bureau (NAB) allege that Chaudhry Iftikhar’s role was beyond his powers. Rather than delegate judges as Returning Officers (ROs) he exercised complete control to the extent that a member of ECP was forced to comment to the media that ROs were not in his control. His activism to influence Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and NAB, two autonomous organisations that do not fall directly under the Supreme Court must be investigated.

The Attorney General and Chairman NAB exchanged correspondence on this subject with the Prime Minister and President. Systematically, NAB was rendered toothless and irrelevant. NAB furnished details on defaults and transparency, which were excluded from the verification process. The most relevant pertained to the Sharif brothers.

The former Attorney General and Chairman NAB will have to appear before the Judicial Commission to testify their knowledge of planned rigging. Else they should be summoned by the Judicial Commission to present their evidence. Two very important cases are the letter by the former to the Government regarding changes in ballot papers by Chaudary Iftikhar and a letter by Chairman NAB to the President regarding his functional constraints and planned pre poll rigging.

Voting Patterns Suggest Organised Rigging

The second question pertains to Punjab and Sindh where most rigging allegations surfaced. Wherever the voter turnout surpassed 40-60%, the pattern in surge was similar. In addition, over 40 polling stations all over Pakistan recorded more than 100% turnout.

Unexplainable skewness in voting patterns in the National Assembly accounts for over 58 PML-N seats in Punjab and 15 PPP seats in Sindh. Out of these, 31 seats were won by incumbents with an unprecedented surge in votes. Hence incumbents playing an organised role in pre poll rigging cannot be ruled out.

In terms of population, Punjab recorded a turnout of 60% and Sindh 54% accounting for a surge of 8,488,440. This surge compared to votes registered by ECP and NADRA puts a question mark on 11.8 million new votes in 2013. Through mathematical simulations, rigging plans in 73 National Assembly (and corresponding Provincial Assembly) seats in Punjab and Sindh where PMLN and PPPP had the benefit of incumbency float on the surface. Both parties formed respective provincial governments.

This familiar pattern can be verified through thumb impressions and scrutiny of Forms 14-15. Judicial commission will have to give this task to a JIT.

Role of Punjab Government

Because 58 National Assembly seats of unfamiliar pattern including an equivalent of Provincial Assembly seats are from Punjab, the role of the Punjab Government in organised rigging needs investigation. Caretaker Chief Minister Punjab held several briefings and meetings for evaluation of surveys and prospects of PML-N.

On 26 April 2013 he held a meeting coordinated by Secretary Dr Tauqir Shah, CS Javed Aslam and others to discuss the prospects of PML-N in Punjab elections. A series of postings were carried out in Punjab. Salaries of lower staff including janitors were delayed and low-level employees were coerced them to vote for PML-N. All these details will have to be dug out by a JIT.

The printing of illegal ballot papers and provision of Urdu Bazar Staff to ECP was also facilitated by officials of the Punjab Government. There were a series of phone calls, mobile communications and SMS exchanges between the Punjab care takers, ECP and PMLN leaders. Reportedly these exchanges were also snooped by foreign intelligence agencies. The Judicial commission within its powers should ask PTA, PEMRA and intelligence agencies to provide transcripts of these communications.

With major rigging in Punjab, PMLN won 119/129 seats from Punjab. The early speech by Mian Nawaz Sharif on 13 May cannot be ignored. It prompted a process towards securing an absolute majority and lured 19 independents to join PMLN raising the tally of general seats to 148. This also affected the Senate. Formation of an oligarchy through majority in one particular province is an aspersion on the spirit of federation.

Role of ECP

It is evident that the ex and present Chairmen ECP have not exerted their positions provided by law. ECP ceded too timidly to the interference of the Ex-Chief Justice and ROs. For most of the time, CEC located himself in Karachi rather than Islamabad.

The communication systems provided by UNDP were field tested but failed at a crucial time. Someone ensured that this important aspect of transparency was rendered unserviceable.

The Post-Election Review Report for the General Elections 2013 points to numerous anomalies and bad practices. This report was deliberately made controversial by ECP. It appears no in-house inquiries were carried out.

Through a process of verification total augmented votes in 2013 came to 84,207,524. In hindsight it appears that the entire process of exclusion of unverified 37,186,053 votes was kept opaque. ECP and NADRA need to tell the Judicial Commission how many votes were actually bogus and from what constituencies and how many were included after due verification.

No wonder that two retired officials of ECP are crying foul. One of them was functional during the elections.

Conclusion

To conclude, witnesses before the Judicial Commission can only point towards irregularities. To expect them to provide conclusive evidence is unrealistic. These witnesses, political parties and civil society must demand the formation of Joint Investigation Teams to determine facts through relentless investigations. Only then would the Judicial Commission meet the ends of its purpose.