M Ziauddin

Thursday, March 26, 2015 – TECHNICALLY the PMLN-led government seems to have come out of the election rigging scrap without any bruises. But politically the PTI seems to have won hands down. And this is going to help the partly decisively in the upcoming local bodies’ elections in the Punjab and Sindh.

However, since the peaceful culmination of the more than six-month long political feud between the PMLN-led federalgovernment and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, there has ensued a frenzied debate in the media over the winner-loser question.

The way this debate is being conducted it seems as if the media is trying its worst to send the PTI back to the D-Chowk arena.

When you pit the representatives of the PTI and the PML-N against each other on live talk shows asking them who won and who lost you are not leaving them any other option but to join the fight and reignite the fire that the two sides are trying desperately to put out in their own respective political interests.

Of course, it is more in the political interest of the PMLN government than the PTI’s that the controversy over the May 2013general elections kicked up by the latter is brought to the settlement mode at the earliest.

The controversy had clearly eroded the ruling party’s credibility and to an extent also its moral authority.And its continuation was expected to further add to its political woes.

On the other hand, with the local bodies’ elections approaching fast in Punjab and Sindh where it believes it has made huge gains at the grassroots level during its dharna agitation and expects to grab majority of local governments in both the provinces and also with the challenges of governing the KPK making increasing demands on the administrative capacities of the provincial government and its time, the PTI too seemed to have reached to the conclusion that it was not worth its while to continue stree politics at this juncture.

Also, perhaps it hadrealized that it would be politically counterproductive at this particular point in time if it attempted to go back to the streets and try to retrieve the momentum that it had cut short on its own in December last after the terror attack on the Army Public School.

There was also the possibility that if it tried to close down the country but failed then perhaps it would stand to lose the massive support it had successfully mobilised in Punjab and urban Sindh in the last six months or so.

So, it was, seemingly, in the mutual political interests of the two that they reach an amicable and mutually acceptable agreement on how to go about reconciling their conflicting positions on the issue of whether or not the PML-N manipulated the general elections in its favour systematically.

The scope of inquiry of the Judicial Commission that is proposed to be constituted through a presidential ordinance has been confined to a three-point terms of reference.

The Commission shall enquire into and determine whether or not: 1. The 2013 general elections were organized and conducted impartially,honestly,fairly, justly and in accordance with the law; and 2. The 2013 general elections were manipulated or influenced pursuant to a systematic effort or by design by anyone; and 3. The results of the 2013 general elections, on an overall basis, are a true and fair reflection of the mandate given by the electorate.

The Commission has been empowered to examine and consider any documents, material or evidence relating to the 2013general elections. However, the Commission has not been given a time limit. The PTI, however, expressed its wish that the Commission would complete its work in 45 days.

The scope of inquiry is such that the Commission can complete its work within a week or it may take a couple of years to wind-up its work.

The onus, seemingly, is now on the PTI to produce the necessary evidence and witnesses so as to prove its case that the last elections were rigged and that the PML-N was solely responsible for systematically rigging and that the results were not the true reflection of the mandate given by the electorate.

Going by the way most of the past commissions have taken time to complete their task one can safely assume that the one constituted to look into alleged poll fraud too would probably fail to finish its job within 45 days. More likely by the time we would know its verdict, the next polls would have been called.

However, if the results are made available in time, it would help the parliamentary committee constituted for recommending electoral reforms to frame proposals that would have the in-put of judicial insight as well.

The agreement between the PML-N-led government and the PTI on this highly thorny issue, in fact, reflects the degree of political maturity that our political parties have attained since 2008 when a General Musharraf reluctantly transferred reins of the government to a civilian elected government. The two contesting parties were seemingly also helped by the rest of the political parties in their endeavour to reach a mutually agreedresolution of the problem.

The most reassuring thing about the whole affair was that no non-political force was seen sitting between the two hostile political parties and dictating the terms of agreement using the baton. The agreement also seems to have injected a new sense of vitality and purpose in the on goingdemocratic process that still seems to be in a highly vulnerable state of existence.

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