The Judicial Commission’s eagerly awaited verdict turned out to be an anti-climax for Pakistanis in general, who were expecting the Honourable Commission to carry out a deep, meaningful and result oriented probe into allegations of widespread rigging, massive irregularities and lack of transparency in elections 2013.

The Report lacked the punch, with the three paragraph verdict appearing to be over kill, It was ambiguous and raised more questions than it gave answers. The verdict seemed to be out of line with key findings in the Report’s main body.

While there may be many questions that agitate common Pakistanis, a few fundamental ones are: If Commission acknowledged that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had ‘shortcomings’ or had ‘lapses’ then how can it be concluded that elections were conducted fairly and in accordance with law? Why was the key term ‘transparency’ missing in the concluding paragraphs? If these were transparent elections then one wonders what non-transparent elections would be like.

When the provision existed in Ordinance, why were the country’s top investigating agencies not involved in digging deeper into highly suspect issues like large scale (35.5 percent) missing Forms 15 and the role of Returning Officers? Why were these agencies, that are known to monitor the conduct of elections, not asked to present any evidence in their possession in support of elections rigging?

After then the caretaker Chief Minister of the Punjab Najam Sethi’s mother of all confessions, that 7-10 days before polling his ‘powers were beginning to fall away’, there remained little doubts about who was masterminding the elections in the country’s biggest province which was the main focus of rigging allegations. This factor alone was sufficient to cast doubts over the fairness and transparency of elections in Punjab in particular.

The clean chit to ECP in the Report’s verdict notwithstanding, it is apparent that this organisation failed to discharge its responsibilities according to its mandate per law. In principle the Commission should have recommended the removal of those members of ECP who were at helm of affairs during elections 2013.

If then Chief Election Commissioner Justice Fakhruddin G Ibrahim had voluntarily resigned after hue and cry by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and other political parties on his failure to hold fair and transparent elections, then the remnants of his team have no moral standing to continue in office after all the irregularities highlighted in the Report. Failure to hold ECP officials and ROs accountable for their inefficiencies would mean that this Report becomes a license for a free for all in future elections.

The focus now shifts to the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms. Ishaq Dar stated that eighty percent of the work of Electoral Reforms Committee had been completed and the final report is due soon. Pakistanis expect that recommendations of this committee will be debated threadbare in parliament.

If Pakistan is to be governed by clean and honest politicians in future, then certain bold decisions would be required to ensure that corrupt and tainted politicians are barred from contesting next general elections in 2018. The existing narrative, that unless finally convicted by court of law a candidate cannot be deprived of his fundamental right from contesting elections and entering parliament, is misleading and only serves the status quo’s vested interests.

It is well known that our judicial system favours and protect the rich and mighty corrupt elite by dragging cases for years hardly taking these to logical conclusion. All aspiring candidates facing inquiries, investigations in National Accountability Bureau, or are under trial in Accountability Courts, or even have appeals pending in higher courts, should not be allowed to file nomination papers.

Let us not forget that over two hundred mega-corruption scams involving big time scoundrels who looted hundreds of billions of the nation’s wealth are under progress in NAB. Does this cream of the corrupt deserve to be back in parliament?

If mighty crooks have to be blocked from reaching corridors of power then it is also time to identify and expose all those having assets abroad or ill gotten wealth stashed in Swiss banks or other foreign save havens. We need a law that simply debars any Pakistani from contesting elections unless he/she liquidates these assets and bring back the looted wealth.

With the Azadi movement and dharna chapters now history, this is also a time for some serious introspection by Imran Khan. While he must restore order and discipline within the party, he needs to purge PTI of few status quo advisors whose sincerity and loyalty towards the party’s higher objectives was doubtful during the entire movement.

Some blunders were definitely made by Imran Khan and his team. Clauses in MOU relating to acceptance of the Commission’s verdict and withdrawal of allegations should not have been agreed to. Returning prematurely to parliament without waiting for Commission’s report and repeated assurances of accepting its verdict even before its announcement seemed ill advised.

PTI’s pro-change character and spirit must not be compromised at any cost. Imran Khan should beware of professional turncoats who are lining up to join PTI, not for any love for the party but to serve their vested interests. Those with shady credentials and a tainted past must not be allowed to enter even party’s premises. Let Javed Hashmi’s experience not be repeated.

So where does Imran Khan go from here? The Judicial Commission Report may have been a triumph for the status quo over pro change forces led by Imran Khan who still inspires the masses. He remains a big hope for freeing Pakistan from the shackles of the status quo that is not prepared to give up its control over the country’s wealth and resources.

Even in this so-called defeat, Imran Khan may have achieved a great victory. Only the bravest of the brave could have dreamt to accomplish what Imran Khan achieved. He effectively challenged the well-entrenched status quo and sent it into a state of panic which is unprecedented in our political history. His battle against the status quo is by no means over. It has just begun. Pakistanis know that Khan can do it.