The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has made public its post-polls report and said “yes!” to rigging. But politics is the art of interpreting words; every stakeholder will announce its own version of what they think the report says.

The report puts the onus on the officers taken from the lower judiciary, and claims they amended the polling scheme during the last few days before the general elections. It is said that they caused confusion for the polling staff, voters and other stakeholders. They also changed polling staff at the last minute, replacing trained staff with inexperienced personnel. The returning officers were legally responsible to identify and select polling stations but they did not conduct this task themselves. And it gets even more ridiculous. The ECP said the election material like voting screens, ballot paper, scissors and pens were of bad quality. Electoral block codes with serial numbers had not been pasted onto each polling booth. This created confusion amongst voters, as they had to search for their booths. But does this type of confusion, lead to an overwhelming change in the outcome of an election? Was this the report that Shah Mahmood Qureshi was reading in his announcement? On the other hand, how convenient for blame to be shifted onto lower tier officers. Was it not the responsibility of the ECP to ensure transparency? If they knew of these irregularities and misappropriations, why did they not disclose this information sooner?

The report says that the commission tried to obtain and make public records of potential candidates from the State Bank, Federal Board of Revenue, NAB and NADRA. However, these organisations did not provide information and candidates were cleared without proper verification. And then, “A centralised scrutiny cell was set up in the ECP Secretariat with members from NAB, SBP, FBR and NADRA to verify the candidates’ nomination papers. This cell did not perform effectively.” The 175-page report reads like a comedy of errors… of incompetency, irregularities and shortcomings but not widespread rigging- if indeed one chooses to believe that the ECP is skirting blame and this is the truth. No matter what the report said, it would have been largely insignificant. Khan and Qadri will not have backed down either way, and neither was the ECP going to implicate itself and its masters. In conclusion, the report changes nothing.