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The rigging mantra

As expected, the PML-N has managed to retain the NA-122 seat and Ayaz Sadiq has returned to the National Assembly. It was undoubtedly a close contest like it was in the 2013 elections.

The result confirms four things – the voters have not changed their preferences since 2013; Lahore remains the bastion of the PML-N’s political power; Imran’s allegations of Ayaz Sadiq winning on the basis of 53,000 fake votes were nothing but a hoax and the exponential increase in the vote bank of the PML-N during the 2013 elections compared to the 2008 elections occurred due to the growing popularity of the PML-N rather than as a result of clandestine manoeuvring.

The election was conducted in an overall peaceful environment under the vigilant glare of the media and the supervision of the polling stations by the khakis on the demand of the PTI; no complaints about any serious irregularity or rigging came to the fore. The PTI accepted the result, though with some reservations. It was hoped that the PTI, unlike in the past, would remain wedded to Khan’s acknowledgement of the validity of the result.

Unfortunately, staying true to his reputation, Imran Khan has not been able to overcome his impulsive propensity to indulge in blame-game. On Twitter, after the polling day, he said that his party was investigating the number of PTI votes thrown out of NA-122 by-election at the last minute and that he would approach the Election Commission after the completion of the investigation. One day before elections he made a statement that irrespective of the win or loss, the movement would continue.

As for the margin of the PML-N victory, which many are interpreting as a narrowing down of the difference between the two parties if the results of 2013 and 2015 by-elections are seen as reference, the notion is not right. They base their conclusion on the difference in the votes polled by each candidate, conveniently forgetting the fact that the turn out in the 2013 elections in NA-122 was 58.48 percent whereas it has been estimated as 43.10 percent during the recent by-election.

Had the turn out been as high as in the general elections, the margin of victory would more or less have been the same. The PTI loss in NA-122 and NA-144 as well as the results of all the by-elections for NA seats held after the sit-in prove beyond any doubt that Imran Khan had miserably failed to dent the popularity of the PML-N and he was not the game-changing politician or revolutionary that he would have people believe. It is indeed a wake-up call for him to get rid of any delusions about his invincibility and self-righteousness as his credentials and the ground realities are quite contrary to what he believes and has been preaching during the last two and half years.

Khan has overdone the rigging mantra and his repeated escapades to cash on the rhetoric have backfired. To begin with, most of the PTI petitions – except three – in the election tribunals regarding National Assembly elections were dismissed on different grounds and even where re-polling has been ordered it has been done on the basis of irregularities rather than rigging on the part of the winning candidates.

The Judicial Commission dismissed claims of systematic rigging and held that the result of the 2013 elections reflected a genuine mandate of the people. But Imran Khan, despite a written agreement with the PML-N made in the wake of the setting up of the Judicial Commission to accept the verdict ungrudgingly and withdraw his rigging allegations in case his claims were negated by the inquiry report, wriggled out of his commitment and re-started the rigging rhetoric, targeting the Election Commission.

In the NA-122 by-election he kept emphasising the same thing but as the result indicates the voters of the constituency have not bought the argument and rather snubbed his propensity to hurl unsubstantiated allegations against his political opponents.

His brand of politics has not endeared him well to the people of Pakistan. He also wears the stigma of a conspiracy to topple the legitimately elected government, introducing violence and lawlessness in politics. Khan is very fond of quoting examples from western democracies about democratic norms and adherence to law and constitution but he acts quite contrary to them.

Imran needs to seriously review his tactics and designs if he wants to remain relevant to the political landscape of Pakistan. He must understand that revolutions are caused and brought about by the proletariat and not the bourgeoisie or the capitalists that surround him. Even he himself is not a fit case for a revolutionary. His politics so far has proved that he was only interested in grabbing political power by all means necessary.

The mandate given to the PML-N by the people is legitimate and beyond any reproach. Describing this mandate as fake is an insult to the people of Pakistan. The reason that people still have faith in the PML-N is that the party during the last two and half years has taken verifiable strides towards resolving formidable inherited challenges. It has taken on terrorists with an unswerving resolve. Operation Zarb-e-Azb has almost broken the back of the terrorists and dismantled their infrastructure in the tribal areas; resultantly incidents of terrorism have considerably declined. The National Action Plan is being pursued with unruffled commitment.

Karachi is fast returning to normalcy and there has been considerable reduction in acts of terrorism and other crimes. There have been efforts to bring the exiled Baloch leaders into the political mainstream. And above all the economy of the country, which was in a complete mess in 2013, has been revived; a fact corroborated by international lending and rating agencies. Loadshedding has been reduced and a number of power producing projects have been initiated, most of which will become functional by the end of 2018.

According to Transparency International corruption has decreased during the last two years. However there is no cause for complacency for the PML-N. Its success or defeat in the 2018 elections will be determined by the degree of success it has in tackling the current challenges, particularly the energy crisis.

The writer is a freelance contributor.

Email: ashpak10@gmail.com

Malik Muhammad Ashraf, "The rigging mantra," The News. 2015-10-21.
Keywords: Political science , Political leaders , Political parties , National Assembly , Election commission , Election monitoring , Imran’s allegations , Ayaz Sadiq , NA-122 , PML-N , PTI , NA-144