The Inspection judge of a local commission, Ghulam Hussain Awan, appointed by an Election Tribunal (ET), has submitted his report to ET Judge Kazim Ali Malik regarding the irregularities found in NA-122 polling stations. National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq defeated PTI Chairman Imran Khan in NA-122 during the 2013 general election, and it is one of the four constituencies shortlisted by the PTI for investigation to serve as a sample to determine whether rigging took place in the elections. The local commission claims to have discovered 519 discrepancies from both sides: the record of PTI Chairman Iman Khan shows that 275 counterfoils of his votes are without thumb impressions whereas 232 counterfoils found in the record of Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq do not carry thumb impressions. Furthermore, the commission found 23,639 unsigned and 3,642 invalid ballot papers.

Although the ET is yet to complete its work and give a final verdict, both parties – the PML-N and the PTI – are claiming victory. The PML-N claims that while the commission has found discrepancies, they do not seem to be favouring the party’s candidate any more than Imran Khan. Moreover, they are a result of mistakes made by the polling staff or procedural issues and do not imply ill intent on part of the PML-N as suggested by the PTI. The PTI, however, claims that the presence of nearly 30,000 unverifiable ballot papers proves that the election in NA-122 was rigged. According to the party, discrepancies show that the polling staff deliberately acted against procedural rules on the instructions of the PML-N.

This back and forth will continue until the Election Tribunal under Judge Kazim Ali Malik does not give a final verdict, which clearly answers the following questions: did rigging take place in NA-122? Was the scale of rigging such that it significantly altered the result of the election? If so, did it change the result in favour of one candidate over the other? As of now, the PTI is attacking the PML-N by claiming that irregularities are proof of rigging. The PML-N’s defence is that irregularities are a common phenomenon and do not implicate the ruling party. Both may be correct, but that cannot be ascertained in press conferences. It would be better if the ET were allowed to complete its work without any political influence. Premature interpretations of incomplete findings are completely unnecessary and ultimately damaging. The ET must not only answer questions in the most clear terms, leaving no room for interpretation but it should also hold accountable those responsible for regular irregularities.