PML-N claims commission has rejected PTI charges

Published July 23, 2015
PML-N leaders claim that the commission had rejected all allegations of systematic and organised rigging in the polls levelled by the PTI.—APP/File
PML-N leaders claim that the commission had rejected all allegations of systematic and organised rigging in the polls levelled by the PTI.—APP/File

ISLAMABAD: The inquiry commission constituted to probe the allegations of rigging in the 2013 general elections has submitted its report to the government through the Ministry of Law and Justice, sources in the ruling PML-N told Dawn on Wednesday.

Soon after some TV channels aired reports about the development, PML-N leaders started claiming that the commission had rejected all allegations of systematic and organised rigging in the polls levelled by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).

On the other hand, the PTI exercised restraint and said it would come out with a response after going through contents of the commission’s report.

Also read: Rigging: Willing to accept any decision made by SC, Imran says

There was no official confirmation whether the ministry had received the report from the commission, which had completed its hearing earlier this month.

“Alhamdulillah! Reportedly, Judicial Commission has cleared elections 2013 and rejected PTI allegations on all three charges. Finally, truth prevails,” said Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal in a message on the social website Twitter.

“In (the) name of rigging drama, ‘dharna’ havoc was played with the economy. In true democratic spirit, IK (Imran Khan) should accept responsibility for misleading the nation and youth. That is his personal choice. We need to, however, now move forward with greater determination to build economy for making up for the dharna year,” he said.

Without confirming or denying that the commission had submitted its report to the government, PML-N’s counsel Shahid Hamid said: “This is a matter of congratulations for 46 million voters and all political parties which had participated in the elections.”

He said the findings of the commission would set aside once and for all “doubts and misgivings” about the polls.

He expressed the hope that all parties would accept the findings of the commission.

The PML-N’s counsel said the time had come for the nation to move forward and the government should be allowed to pay attention to major issues and challenges like terrorism and floods.

A source in the PML-N claimed that the judges had declared that the election results reflected “true and fair mandate of the people”.

“The commission has found no proof of rigging in the elections and declared that the polls were held in a fair way and in accordance with the law,” said a PML-N leader who is privy to the latest development and has remained associated with the hearings of the commission.

“The judges have given its verdict in favour of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP),” he said but refused to divulge the details of the findings of the commission.

On the other hand, PTI’s Ishaq Khakwani, who headed the party’s special task force for the commission, said the party would give its official reaction after reading the report.

“The PTI will come out with a detailed reaction after seeing what the judges have written in the report in response to the three questions that had been put before them,” he said.

However, he alleged that it seemed that the people in the government were giving a “twist” to the findings of the commission to mislead the nation and it seemed to be a part of a drama. “Normally, judges do not announce or release their findings in the darkness of night.”

The three-judge commission, headed by Chief Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk, had held 39 sittings and completed the hearing on July 3.

The commission -- constituted under a presidential ordinance on April 3 after months of a tug of war between the PTI and the PML-N -- had commenced proceedings on April 9. It recorded testimonies of 69 witnesses, including politicians, government and judicial officers and journalists.

The ordinance expected the commission to submit its findings to the government as soon as possible, preferably within 45 days of its first meeting.

Justice Amir Hani Muslim and Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan were the two other judges in the commission, which was constituted as a result of a memorandum of understanding signed between the PML-N and the PTI.

The PTI had staged a 126-day sit-in in Islamabad last year to press for its demand for a judicial inquiry into the rigging allegations.

According to the terms of reference (ToR), the commission was to investigate whether the elections were manipulated or influenced in a systematic manner or by design by anyone, or not. It was also to decide whether the poll results, on an overall basis, were a true and fair reflection of the mandate given by the electorate or not.

“The commission has adequately answered all questions mentioned in the ToRs,” the source said, adding that the report would soon be made public.

During the course of hearing, the ECP’s counsel Salman Akram Raja, while concluding his arguments, had stated that the mandate of political parties was not stolen in the polls, which actually saw substantial compliance with election laws.

He conceded that the elections were not perfect, but said that deficiencies were inevitable in elections in any part of the world. However, such mistakes cannot be called a fraud.

“No deliberate wrongdoing was ever committed by the ECP and no evidence was brought before the commission to prove its partiality to any political party,” he contended.

Referring to the Form XV issue, the counsel argued that though a large number of the forms had gone missing, the results of the elections were still verifiable.

In his arguments, PML-N’s counsel Shahid Hamid had said that the decision to print ballot papers exceeding the number of voters in certain constituencies was not a political decision but an administrative one. He said the decision might have been wrong, but it did not demonstrate any bad intent or a deliberate attempt to manipulate the elections.

He pointed out that of the 272 National Assembly seats, the results of elections to 135 were never challenged and of the 137 that were contested before election tribunals, 112 of the petitions were dismissed.

The PTI’s lawyer Abdul Hafeez Pirzada in his arguments had alleged “lack of accountability, monitoring and proper delegation of authority within the ECP”. He said that the ECP was responsible for the recurring electoral crisis that happened off and on in the country, and warned that the commission might become redundant if the trend continued.

He alleged that the ECP had abdicated its duties, leaving the job of holding the elections to the sweet will of its subordinates.

Published in Dawn, July 23rd, 2015

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