Rigging allegations

Published February 13, 2024

THE integrity of the results tabulation exercise is under question, with dozens of candidates — mostly belonging to the PTI, but also other parties and independents — challenging in various forums the ECP’s results on the basis of serious irregularities. In most cases, the claims seem to be centred on Form 45 — the polling station-level count of votes handed to contesting candidates — which either wasn’t issued in each case, thus preventing a proper check and balance on the tabulation exercise, or which do not tally with the final results announced. Due to the discrepancies, the petitioners have alleged that rigging took place during the tallying of results. The JI’s Hafiz Naeemur Rahman on Monday said he would not accept a ‘stolen mandate’ for the seat he was declared to have won, because the Form 45s available with the contesting candidates showed that it was his PTI rival who was victorious. The courts, too, are taking notice on the basis of various appeals filed before them and have stayed the issuance of results in some constituencies till further notice.

If the cases stand up under scrutiny and there is enough evidence to back the petitioners’ claims, some results could be changed, which will alter the final tally for each party. The ECP should, in the interim, not worsen the controversies surrounding its results by notifying any victory in haste, especially not where the losing candidates seem to have a strong case. Its terrible mismanagement of the result compilation process caused these problems, and the commission must now ensure that there was no tampering with the public’s mandate before it starts issuing notifications. Lastly, the PTI and its supporters must temper their expectations regarding the recovery of their allegedly ‘stolen’ mandate. Considering what is at stake and the potential consequences for those allegedly involved, it will not be easy to have the ROs’ decisions reversed. They should also remember that, in the past, such disputes have sometimes taken years to resolve or been left unaddressed. One fitting example was the PTI’s own deputy speaker in the last National Assembly, Qasim Suri, whose victory was challenged successfully by Nawabzada Lashkari Raisani. The decision of the election tribunal was, however, stayed by the Supreme Court and never taken up again. Contestants should not let frustration get the better of them in such a scenario.

Published in Dawn, February 13th, 2024

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