Rigging claims

Published May 4, 2024

THE PTI claims to have “all the evidence” against what it asserts was a rigged election this February. The party has released a “white paper” alleging widespread electoral manipulations, specifically the fudging of Form-47, which consolidates polling data. The document highlights discrepancies between preliminary results on Form 45, which showed PTI leading, and the final results on Form 47, prepared without PTI representatives in breach of electoral laws.

It also shows examples of vote count reversals where the alleged manipulation of Form 45 shifted outcomes significantly in favour of PTI’s opponents. Furthermore, it cites instances of manipulation in Form 47 itself by Returning Officers who reportedly altered final tallies. The paper also goes into the events that preceded the elections, highlighting administrative actions by the caretaker set-up allegedly favouring certain political factions, media censorship, and internet blackouts allegedly aimed at suppressing the party’s reach.

While the PTI’s grievances seem genuine, the report itself is little more than consolidation of all that its leaders have been contending for the past three months. Moreover, while the party has called for resignation of the chief election commissioner, demanded that the Supreme Court expedite the hearing of their pending petitions, proposed the formation of an independent judicial commission to probe the allegations and implement sweeping electoral reforms, it would do even better to play a constructive role in parliament and push for the said reforms, rather than be the disruptive force it has historically been. At the same time, while playing their legislative role, the PTI must keep bringing forth such ‘evidence’, which they have indicated they will in future ‘papers’.

The PTI’s allegations are not new; most elections in Pakistan have been controversial, and it is almost a given that results will be challenged by the losing side. The legitimacy of the 2018 elections was in doubt as well, when the PTI itself came to power, and of several elections before that. The sad fact remains that whoever is close to the powers that be is given an edge, with the ECP either powerless to act or worse, complicit.

The sole pathway for the ECP to recover the integrity that is constantly being questioned now, is to conduct an audit of the contested election results forthwith. This audit should be conducted immediately, openly, with all relevant stakeholders invited to observe the process. Moreover, there is a dire need for this rigging issue to find a permanent resolution, for all elections to come.

Unless the major political parties realise the need for drastic electoral reforms, and for the ECP to be empowered, the losing side will always kick up a storm after every election and the political stability that the nation so sorely needs, may remain out of reach.

Published in Dawn, May 4th, 2024

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