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ISLAMABAD: As the Senate concluded a lengthy debate on allegations of rigging in the general elections, the process for forming a parliamentary commission to investigate the matter is set to start soon.

Winding up the discussion initiated through an adjournment motion, Leader of the House in the Senate Syed Shibli Faraz said the chairman of the Senate and the speaker of the National Assembly should decide how to form the commission.

The debate in the Senate saw members become embroiled in a war of words after the opposition criticised the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and termed the polls sham, dubbing Imran Khan a ‘selected’ prime minister as opposed to being elected by the people.

Barbs fly in Senate after opposition members dub Imran ‘selected’ prime minister

The opposition claimed that the results had been altered after 6pm. Opposition members also claimed that many additional ballot papers had been printed, Forms 45 had not been given to polling agents, the Results Transmission System (RTS) had deliberately been shut down and unauthorised individuals counted the votes who altered the final numbers.

Some of the members also demanded a forensic audit of the Forms 45 placed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on its website, while others called for an inquiry into the RTS fiasco. The members even claimed that ballot papers in many areas of Balochistan had been stamped a day before polling.

The ECP continued to take heavy hits, with members referring to the comments of the chief justice of Pakistan in which he mentioned that he had tried calling the chief election commissioner three times on election day, but could not get through and that he [the CEC] was probably sleeping.

The opposition members asked why the ECP secretary had made the announcement of the RTS crashing at 2am, when on the other hand the National Database and Registration and Authority claimed that the system never crashed in the first place.

Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Interior Rehman Malik also played an audio clip that had an unidentified individual issuing directives to ignore the RTS. It was also disclosed that 4,500 presiding officers did not have access to a smartphone to pass Forms 45 to the system.

Senator Rabbani warned that even before the dust from the 2018 elections had settled, plans were already being made to rig the next polls. He claimed that the procedure for internet voting for overseas Pakistanis was not transparent. “What is the guarantee that it will not be hacked and become subject to cybercrime?” he asked.

Senator Mushahidullah Khan said Nawaz Sharif had been made a victim of a personal vendetta under a conspiracy. Senator Khan said that the former prime minister was paying the price for talking about civilian supremacy and claimed that the RTS had been shut down after the revelation that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was sweeping the elections.

Former minister for information Pervaiz Rasheed said that the way in which the international media saw the polls was embarrassing. He said that the headline of an international newspaper read “How to swing elections. Pakistan Army style”. Senator Rasheed also showed a cartoon that depicted a boot in place of a ballot box. “How can a prime minister emerging out of a boot represent Pakistan abroad?” he asked.

Senator Saadia Abbasi of the PML-N also chipped in by questioning the meeting between the chairman of the National Accountability Bureau and the prime minister. The senator demanded the resignation of the NAB chief.

Senator Faraz, however, did not appreciate what he called indecent accusations on the elected government and advised the PML-N to accept the will of the people. He said that lessons should be learnt from mistakes and suggested that a new parliamentary committee on electoral reforms be formed to evaluate the flaws of the electoral system. Rejecting allegations that the polls had been rigged, Senator Faraz said that if those claims were true, the streets would be filled with people in protest all over the country.

Other PTI leaders, including Chaudhry Sarwar and Mohsin Aziz, argued that it was hypocritical of the of the PML-N to say that the polls were rigged all over the country where the party lost, but were fair and free in Punjab where they had managed to win.

Published in Dawn, September 4th, 2018