This was not unexpected. There are few elections in Pakistan’s history that are not marred by allegations of rigging. The practice is so common that often the loosing candidates allege irregularities in the voting process as a default explanation for their failure. As last term’s long and protracted Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) led ‘dharna’ demonstrated, political parties will waste enormous capital claiming that their mandate has been stolen; even if, eventually those claims are eventually found baseless, as PTI’s claims were by the Supreme Court formed commission.
However that does not mean that allegations of rigging need not be taken seriously or rejected prima facie. This is especially true given the severity of the claims made by several parties across the board. Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) President, Shehbaz Sharif has claimed to a press conference that their polling agents where throw out from polling stations during counting, ‘form 45’ – a document that the polling staff is legally mandated to provide observers and agents – were often not provided, while in many place it was simply handed out slips of loose paper.
These claims are echoed by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), with PPP’s Maula Bux Chandio claiming that his party’s agents were not allowed inside polling stations in Badin while Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) leader Raza Haroon mad the same claim about polling stations in different parts of Karachi.
The widespread claims, and the fact that they all refer to the same kind of electoral irregularities, is a troubling fact which must be surely investigated. While the Punjab election commissioner has strongly rejected such allegations and has said that political leaders should refrain from issuing such serious allegations without any evidence, that fact that the allegations have been made should ensure that an unbiased investigation follows – to disabuse any false notions if not anything else. All allegations need to be investigated, after all the objective of the election – and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) - is to carry out a transparent exercise.
What these claims mean for the future of the new government, and its stability, remains to be seen. Shebaz Sharif has “rejected” the election categorically, and alluded to the “people’s right to express their disappointment in anger”; perhaps we can expect protests in the same vein as the infamous dharna.
However, the fact remains, the onus of providing proof rests with the parties alleging rigging.