August 6, 2018 | The Friday Times

A number of candidates who lost the election, including several so-called electables, are crying hoarse, reinforcing the narrative of pre- and post-poll rigging. Before dwelling into this thorny issue, let us consider the following:

On July 30, when the anchor of a news show at China Global TV Network (CGTN), The Point, drew the attention of his guests to the ‘seismic change’ that Pakistan saw following the July 25 elections and the controversy over electoral fraud and manipulation accompanying it, his Chinese guest, an academic and researcher, responded with a telling comment, “Of course we see a new reality after the elections in Pakistan. It would be good for all of us to learn to deal with that reality instead of kicking up dust through allegations,” said the former ambassador, apparently picking on the centuries’ old Confucian wisdom.

Similarly, on August 1, a few ambassadors, who had gathered at an event in Islamabad, started off by congratulating the hundred-plus participants and underscoring that democracy is an inclusive process comprising rights and responsibilities, voting on a particular day being just one of its so many aspects. They highlighted that democracy demands accountability as well as application of a well-aligned moral compass to apply to ones’ own self as well as to actions of others, particularly those representing us.

None of the ambassadors even vaguely alluded to what the Sharif camp and its allies such as Asfandyar Wali Khan and Maulana Fazlur Rehman, and some PPP stalwarts continue to claim.

Among the crowd, fortunately, I came across a university lecturer who served as a presiding officer in the Abbottabad region on the Election Day. “How did it go?” I asked.

“All went well but a fauji asked me at the end of the vote count for the Form 45. I refused, but he insisted and I had to give in.”

“Did you sign it?”

“Yes, I did?”

“What, was it a blank one?” I pressed on.

No, said the lecturer, and explained that he simply copied the final vote count from the polling station and handed the copy to the fauji. He also ended up saying that he had never witnessed such transparent exercise before with so many checks on the process.

You can imagine, within one minute, his narrative transformed from a sensational ‘disclosure’ (that the security personal asked for a copy of the Form 45) to one in which he praised the entire process in general, with small glitches here and there.

Demands for an investigation into such glitches as well as contradictory claims by the National Data Registration Authority (NADRA) and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on the (mal)functioning of the Results Transmission System ( RTS) make sense to clear the thick fog of allegations. The election commission, one hopes, would react positively to a similar demand of Farhatullah Babar, the PPP secretary general.

“Did the RTS actually collapse, at what time, and what caused the collapse? If it did not actually collapse who in the ECP decided to stop the RTS by declaring it was malfunctioning and on whose instructions was it done. Just call the officers of the ECP and Nadra before the parliamentary committee in an open public hearing and all pieces of the jigsaw puzzle will fall into place,” Babar has asked in an interview with a national daily.

Solid evidence, or the absence thereof, could also help in sifting fact from faction, and the ECP should be open to demands for such investigations and should not shy away from facing facts for the sake of its own credibility.

Secondly, the long list of losers – particularly those who jumped ship to either join the PTI-bandwagon ahead of the elections or contest as independents – runs in the face of allegations that the establishment had nudged them into PTI’s way to facilitate its victory. How come the majority, mostly in Punjab, failed public scrutiny. Prominent among such figures are Ishaq Khakwani, Nisar Ali Khan, Firdous Ashiq Awan, Chaudhry Nisar (Rawalpindi), Manzoor Wattoo, his son Khurram and daughter Robina (Okara), Sikandar Bosan (Multan), Shaukat Basra (Bahawalnagar), Iqbal Shah (Lodhran), Amjad Farooq Khosa (DGK), Punjab Assembly former deputy speaker Sher Ali Gorchani and his father Pervez Gorchani, Hafeezur Rehman Dareshak and Shamona Mir Badshah Qaisrani (Rajanpur), Ayesha Nazeer Jutt (Vehari), Zafar Qureshi (Sargodha), Sultan and Qasim Hinjra and Basit Bukhari (Muzzafargarh), Rana Nazeer, Mian Tariq and Rana Bilal Ijaz (Gujranwala).

Why would the establishment not help them win [if they were considered helping tools for PTI], and thus foreclose the specter of a hung parliament, which is no recipe for political stability?

And if the establishment, as detractors suspect, will keep Imran Khan on tenterhooks like it has allegedly done with other leaders, then Pakistan’s misery will continue and its governance problems compound. The country will most likely continue the disastrous path it has charted during the last four decades under a skewed civil-military relationship.

The imbalance cuts both ways, and all key stakeholders, including those wary of their defeat on July 25, must not lose sight of the urgency that stares Pakistan in the face; the need for smart, clean and accountable governance to the benefit of the teeming but helpless millions of Pakistanis.

The unprecedented victory of the PTI in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa after remaining in power for a full five-year term is a compelling case study for all those seeking answers to the massive support the party got in the province. They fail to understand that small tweaking of existing governance structures (health, education, and police reforms, the Access to Essential Services Act, the astounding success of the Dispute Resolution Councils (DRCs), and reforms of the dated Civil Procedures Code were some of the acts that directly touched lives of hundreds of thousands in the conflict-hit province. Once they perceived slight qualitative changes in their lives, they turned in droves to endorse improved governance. Those who failed on that count are huffing and puffing today. Lets get real, respect the common people – the real source of power.

Published in Daily Times, August 3rd 2018.

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