Naveed Aman Khan
PAKISTAN Muslim League Nawaz President Shahbaz Sharif, Pakistan People’s Party CoChairman Asif Ali Zardari, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam leader Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman, Jamat-e-Islami leader Siraj-ul-Haq and many others have outrightly rejected the results of the general election 2018, alleging blatant rigging of the election. Among others Shahbaz Sharif also warned that his party would launch protests against the alleged rigging. Unlike his elder brother Mohammad Nawaz Sharif he did not say who he believes could have rigged the polls, but allegations of manipulating the election have been made seemingly against the country’s powerful military. Shahbaz Sharif raises questions on the breakdown of Result Transmission System (RTS), ousting of poling agents during counting of votes and deliberate slow voting process but at the same time he keeps himself away from the protest demonstration(s). As Opposition leader during next five years defensive and frightened Shahbaz Sharif will remain on the back foot.
Shahbaz Sharif, Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari have been of the view that they will fight this injustice using all options and not accept a blatant violation of the mandate. But when the protest started all three of them disappeared quite mysteriously. Present among the leaders were Maulana Fazal ur Rehman, Siraj-ul-Haq, Qamar Zaman Kaira and Khawaja Asif. Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman seems to lead the protests ahead of Shahbaz Sharif throughout. After defeat Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman will become real Opposition Leader outside Parliament and follow the narrative of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Shahbaz Sharif even before election 2018 did not follow the popular narrative and line of his elder brother Nawaz Sharif. After the controversial and unjustified ousting of Nawaz Sharif from premiership, Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz leader Shahbaz Sharif took over the charge of the party leaving Nawaz Sharif’s narrative aside. On one hand Shahbaz Sharif refused to accept results of the general election but on the other seems not to play with fire. He believes that confrontation with Judiciary and Establishment will add pains to their miseries. He too is facing cases against him and his family members. So any serious confrontation with powerful institutions will put him and family in deep trouble. As Opposition Leader he will perform like Syed Khursheed Shah.
Shahbaz Sharif says that he has not seen the kind of malpractices done after the polling time in his whole political career. Several complaints from the whole country that Form 45 was not given and the polling agents of the party were driven out. Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Bilawal Zardari also said that he had not received official results from any constituency he was contesting despite it being past midnight. He too said that his polling agents have been thrown out of polling stations across the country. Bilawal’s sister Asifa Zardari also called the election process a “facade”. Asifa said that the Election Commission of Pakistan has abdicated all responsibilities in this election and have been nothing more than a pawn. From throwing out polling agents to withholding results, the facade has been stripped away. This is blatant rigging!
Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed too raised similar doubts on the election results. He said that this is the first time in history of Pakistan that five political parties have called a foul-play in the poll and termed it massively rigged. Pakistani media also observed delay in the start of polling. Numerous complaints from Punjab and KP particularly of late start of polling, absence of basic facilities, and misconduct of staff have been witnessed. Huge turnout of voters in Punjab but slow-voting method being used in many key constituencies, as a result millions of voters could not cast their votes. During last election of 2013, allegations of rigging were common in Pakistan after polls. After every election, we usually hear this kind of complaint, so this is nothing new. Each time the party which loses the election always has this kind of complaint but this time it was quite visible.The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was likely to set up an Election Tribunal to address such complaints. The parties making allegations of rigging will have to figure out how they are going to proceed with these allegations. Generally what tends to happen is that if something like this happens, the Election Commission of Pakistan sets up an Election Tribunal and most people who have complaints take their complaints to the Tribunal. But what about NA 131 Lahore results and recounting issue. Imran Khan doesn’t look confident in NA 131 that is why he fearful of recounting.
Being government office as usual Election Commission of Pakistan, however, has already rejected the “blatant” rigging allegations. In an unusual press conference at 4 am local time, Chief Election Commissioner Muhammad Raza Khan congratulated the people of Pakistan for participating in the election process. He, however, acknowledged that the delay in announcement of election results has caused some annoyance and that’s all. The CEC stressed the delay was on account of a new system – Results Transmission System – introduced by it. Result Transmission System was implemented for the first time in Pakistan. Election 2018 was conducted amid foolproof security of Armed Forces of Pakistan and Judiciary but even then stamped ballots were found burning on stray garbage heaps in different cities of the country. How come it could happen. It is a big question mark on the credibility of the institutions. These institutions are pride of Pakistan and any such allegation would spoil their credibility.
— The writer is political analyst based in Islamabad.