There outcry has been undeniably loud, and more importantly, it has been unanimous. The putative opposition, with a smattering of other losing candidates, think the polls were rigged on Election Day – even candidates from the winning Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) are demanding a recount.
But despite this seeming consensus, this out roar is less a harmony and more a cacophony – a mixture a contradictory stances, independent plans of actions and disunity. This does not simply mean that all the parties alleging rigging have failed to unite under the same banner and chalk out a combined plan of action – although they tried during the All Parties Conference (APC) held on Friday - more crucially, all parties seem to have a different idea of what they want out of this resistance to begin with.
Therefore the image of the heads of parties ranging from Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to National Party (NP) standing in front of the podium together is a little misleading.
While many leaders at the conference, most notably from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), rejected the results and demanded an outright re-election, PML-N has been much more circumspect. While its President, Shehbaz Sharif, was present at the conference and repeated the rigging allegations, he added an important caveat – that he will discuss all plans with his party.
The decision to take oath in the new assemblies – for those who have been elected at least – is the biggest sticking point. Taking oath is tacitly and politically accepting the result; after which maintaining the allegation that the “mandate was stolen” will be very difficult. Refusing to take oath is much more drastic and will inevitably have to be followed by street agitation.
Do all parties have the stomach for a long and protracted street battle, especially with a seemingly antagonistic and active superior judiciary, and the support of other institutions dubious at best?
This is the question that goes to the heart of the confusion.
Smaller parties, which have scored few seats and have been rendered almost irrelevant, would want to go with the more radical approach. But other parties, such as the PML-N – which has a sizeable number of seats and the ability to form a government in Punjab - and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) – which didn’t even attend the conference – have other options on the table.
Perhaps a conciliatory approach – where constituencies where rigging is alleged are recounted, while the parties take oath – may be the most reasonable way forward.