IT was a perplexing victory speech and one which is bound to leave a bad taste. Despite the PTI upending the assessments of nearly every observer watching the Punjab by-polls with its unexpected sweep of 15 of the 20 seats up for grabs, party chairman Imran Khan continued to attack Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja a day later, accusing him of partiality and attempting to use the Election Commission of Pakistan to swing the results in favour of the PML-N.
One would have expected Mr Khan to have softened his tone, considering that no one was expecting his party to do so well, given how loudly the former prime minister had been claiming that the entire electoral system was rigged. Instead, election day results suggested that it was a fairer contest than most were expecting, with the ruling PML-N handed an embarrassing drubbing on its home turf and the PTI managing to run away with most of the seats despite the odds.
Indeed, given the results, one would argue that the elections seemed quite free and fair and, barring a few incidents of violence, generally well conducted. Therefore, one would have expected the PTI to be a little more appreciative of the fact that it was ensured a level playing field and that its worst fears never materialised.
Yet, Mr Khan seemed unwilling to let go of his distrust of the CEC. The continuing acrimony does not make sense, considering that the latter seems more focused on quietly going about his constitutional duties and does not seem to be swayed by the relentless campaign against him. Because of the imbalance of power between them, the PTI chief’s constant criticism has now started to look like bullying to some observers. They believe that Mr Khan has been constantly attacking and undermining the CEC to pressurise him over the pending decision in the foreign funding case against the former’s party.
That may or may not be true, but it is clear that Mr Khan needs to be more direct about why he does not trust Mr Raja and must provide sufficient evidence to substantiate his allegations against him. If the PTI chief wants the CEC gone, there is a political process involved. Haranguing the latter in public is certainly not the way to go about it. There have been recent reports that Mr Raja is worried about his security in light of the threats to his life. He does not deserve to be living in fear for simply doing the job that the Constitution has mandated him to do. Mr Khan should also consider how he would want to be involved in consultations for the next ECP chief, considering he himself has resigned from parliament and seems to have no inclination to sit down with his rivals on any matter, including this one.
Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2022