The NA-4 by-elections proved political analysts wrong by having the ruling party Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) bounce back with a good lead above their opponents. However, as with all elections, the results are not without controversy. To nobody’s surprise, the post-election air is mired with allegations of rigging.

This should not overshadow PTI’s victory; allegations of rigging are a rite of passage after every election. What should be determined is the vestige of truth in it or whether it is a result of sour grapes. The biggest accuser has been Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)’s Ameer Muqam, whose talk of manipulated polling agents and massive rigging remains fanciful, and in the absence of any indication by independent observes, can be dismissed.

More concern-worthy are the irregularities mentioned in the Fafen (Free and Fair Election Network) report. While the report detailed a generally fair election with efficient managing of the opening, voting and identification processes, it still identified some suspicious voting patterns and four violations of electoral laws per station. More worrying are the allegations of Awami National Party (ANP) against PTI of harassing women voters, which could be linked to Fafen’s observation of low women voter turnout. However, this constituency has had a historical track of low female participation.

Perhaps the most credible argument against this election’s conduct were the illegal pre-election activities. Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)’s Bilawal Bhutto had already complained before the election about PTI and PML-N starting developmental schemes, which is illegal per Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) rules in a constituency where by-election is announced. These allegations have weight as both parties had started pandering to the masses with overnight projects, with PTI working on solarisation of mosques and PML-N leaders using gas pipes and power transformers as political bribes.

While using funds to gain last-minute popularity at election time is illegal, it is interesting to see if ECP will take unprecedented action against it. ECP is known to be pro-active against Imran; however prosecuting PTI for this could be a double edged sword for PML-N as well, who is infamous for completing projects just before an election.

Nevertheless, it would be prudent for ECP to quickly investigate and dismiss the rigging claims to appease the inflammatory attitude of ANP, which has fantastically hinted at the formation of a new province after FATA’s merger.