Elections 2013 were historic in many ways. This was the first time that elections were being held after the completion of 5-year tenure of a democratically elected government. For the first time in Pakistan’s history, the elections were to be held under the neutral caretaker set up. This was possible based on the historic 20th constitutional amendment that defined the process for the setting up of neutral caretaker set ups at the federal as well as the four provincial levels. The fact that neutral caretaker set ups had taken place within a matter of 9 days from the date of dissolution of the assemblies speaks volumes of the maturity of the political class. It is also important to note that PML-N had not a single nominee in the neutral caretaker set up. Even in Punjab, the neutral caretaker chief minister was Mr. Najam Sethi who was the nominee of PPP.
For the first time in Pakistan’s history, the appointment of Chief Election Commissioner was done with the consensus of all political parties within the parliament and others outside the parliament e.g. Jamaat e Islami, PTI, etc. Justice Fakhrudding G. Ibrahim is an outstanding personality who is well respected throughout Pakistan for his competence, integrity and independence. He was one of the very few judges of the Supreme Court who withstood the pressure from the military dictator General Zia and refused to take the oath under Martial Law. Prior to the appointment of Justice Fakhrudding G. Ibrahim, Imran Khan was not only consulted by Chaudhry Nisar, then leader of the opposition, but his consent was also taken. Imran Khan is on record to have given his consent to this appointment.
For the first time in the history, the voter lists were prepared using the computerized NADRA database with pictures / CNIC numbers. The election commission ran a vigorous campaign through SMS / promotion through newspapers urging people to verify their votes.
PML-N’s margin of victory in most cases was significant to cast any doubt on the overall results. Consider the following:
- There are 51 NA seats where margin of win for PML-N candidates is more than 70,000.
- There are 81 seats where margin of win is more than 50,000
- There are 97 seats where PML-N candidates won with a margin of more than 40,000 votes.
- In addition, there were 55 constituencies where PTI candidates lost security deposit in Punjab.
- There were 10 seats where PTI did not put up any candidate in Punjab.
- Therefore on 65 seats representing 44 % of the total NA seats, PTI does not have any case to challenge the PML-N victory. This is a very high percentage for any party claiming that its election mandate has been stolen.
Main Reasons for PTI Electoral Defeat:
After the 2013 elections, Chairman PTI had appointed a 3-member committee to determine the causes of PTI’s defeat in the elections. Summary of their finding is as follows:
- Intra party elections. The committee said that the party elections just months before the general elections was an ill-conceived idea. It created serious internal rifts as a result of accusations and counter accusations. The results of intra party elections were generally rejected by a vast majority of candidates, which was covered by the entire media. A committee set up to investigate the serious charges of rigging in the intra party elections has failed to resolve more than 10 % of the complaints even after a lapse of more than 18 months.
- Corruption in distribution of tickets / Merit not the consideration in award of tickets. The party found out that financial irregularities were committed in the award of tickets to candidates. Tickets were distributed in many instances based on bribes. It is strange that a party, which is championing the cause of eliminating corruption from the society itself, was found in serious corrupt practices. The committee concluded that tickets were not given on merit. Imran Khan has been consistently talking about introducing merit in the country. On what basis can he claim to promote merit when he could not even implement the same in his own party? In spite of several complaints of corruption, the party chairman did not take action even in a single instance.
- Campaign was not in line with ground reality. The committee’s view was that the election campaign was poorly managed and did not take into account the ground realities. It focused primarily in the urban areas completely ignoring the majority of voters living in rural areas.
- Secretary General was dysfunctional. The committee found out that the secretary general was completely dysfunctional and did not play the role required of a secretary general. He had no coordination of the campaign and was primarily focused on his own seat.
- Lack of training of polling agents. The party’s polling agents were not properly trained for the most important challenge that the party faced in its 18-year existence. In an interview Imran Khan accepted that the polling agents were not properly trained for this difficult task. The polling agents had no objection to the counting of the votes and did not raise issues on the polling day and subsequently in the professional manner required of them.
- The report also highlights the grievances of party office bearers and workers against Imran Khan who, they complained, does not give them due importance. They held Imran Khan and other top leaders responsible for the mess in ticket distribution as all the decisions were taken by them, the report points out. Assessment of the candidates was done in a very “hush hush” manner, said the report.
- Explaining the trouble caused by the intra-party elections shortly before the national polls, the report said it caused rivalries, grouping and personal animosity that seriously affected the unity and enthusiasm of PTI during the general elections.
Imran Khan has failed to take any action on its internal party report and instead decided to push the blame of his defeat in GE 2013 on PMLN. We now come to the specific allegations and charges made by Imran Khan based on which he has concluded that elections were massively rigged and PTI was denied the mandate of the people.
- Imran Khan has said that there was mass scale rigging in Punjab resulting in the mandate being stolen from PTI.
This allegation is refuted based on following facts:
- All election surveys conducted by independent international and national institutions had predicted PML-N victory at federal and Punjab levels while they foretold PPPP’s victory in Sindh and PTI’s victory in KPK. Some of the institutions / groups which had predicted a clear and outright victory for PMLN included Economist London, International Republican Institute (IRI), Gallup International, PEW, Reuters and others. In addition all local survey groups and publications had predicted PMLN victory.
- Post election survey and research published by UNDP, PILDAT, FAFEN and others have shown confidence in transparency and accountability of 2013 General Elections.
- The electoral process was monitored by several leading international and local organizations such as the US-based National Democratic Institute, the European Union, Fafen (according to Fafen report …2013 elections were by and large free and fair and transparent) and others.
- NDI and EU have been monitoring elections in Pakistan for the last several years and both concluded that the May 2013 elections were fairer than any previous election.
- PILDAT, which is one of the best recognized NGO also concluded that May 2013 elections were better in every respect than any previous elections.
- From a total of 577 provincial assembly seats, PTI filed complaint on just 28 seats representing just 4. 8 % of the total seats. It is strange that the party claiming that there has been mass scale rigging in a very planned way, no more than only 28 candidates out of a total of 577 believed there was rigging in their constituencies. If mass scale rigging had taken place, the complaints filed would have been in hundreds at the national and provincial level. At the national assembly level, the total complaints filed were just 30 out of the total of 272 national assembly seats. Out of these 30, 19 pertain to Punjab, 5 to Sindh, and 6 to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. PTI would not be able to form government at the national level or in Punjab even if PTI candidates would be declared winners in all the seats where PTI had filed election related complaints. Additionally, it is pertinent to mention here that of the 84 pending cases in both and NA and PA constituencies, only 8 cases of PTI are pending against PMLN in the NA constituencies and, 8 cases are pending in the Provincial constituencies.
- Imran Khan has said that there was conspiracy as a result of which 35 NA seats were gifted to PML-N. According to Imran, there was a phone conversation between Caretaker Chief Minister and Mr. Shahbaz Sharif alleging that the CM confirmed having punctured 35 NA seats in favor of PML-N. In these 35 seats, the difference between the winner and runner up is less than the rejected votes and therefore it is assumed that if these votes had not been rejected, PTI would have gained and won these 35 seats.
- Perhaps the PTI chief is missing the main point: There are only six seats in which PTI was a runner up. So even if we concede that all the rejected votes in these six constituencies will go to PTI, it still just gets six more seats. So what is this myth of 35 punctures? The PML-N won just 12 of these 35 seats that Imran Khan is speaking of; yet the way these so-called punctures are being presented makes it look like that PML-N has somehow been ‘gifted’ all 35 seats through a well planned conspiracy.
- Also there are only 2 seats out of these 35 where PTI is runner up against PML-N so at best PML-N would have lost 2 seats vs. PTI.
- A very important fact is that according to Imran Khan this 35 punctures were the gift from Najam Sethi who managed to get 35 seats as a gift to PML-N. The point to remember is that out of these 35 seats, only 15 relate to Punjab, KPK 5, FATA 3, Sindh 5 & Baluchistan 7. How can Punjab care taker chief minister manage not only 15 Punjab related seats but was also able to rig the 20 seats outside his domain?
- Imran has repeatedly alleged that in every constituency up to 60,000 to 70,000 votes cast were invalid votes. In support of his allegation he says that Chaudhry Nisar had said this in the National Assembly.
- Chaudhry Nisar addressed the issue of thumb verification and explained that a large number of thumb impression may not be verified. Thumb printing verification requires NADRA database cross-references to fingerprints that were taken during elections on the ballot. However they were not taken professionally due to lack of trained staff and the quality of ink used rather than the special magnetic ink. Thumb printing verification or the lack thereof however is not proof alone for the votes to be termed as fake. Imran Khan should know that every vote cast is valid whether or not thumb impression is verifiable or many votes because the thumb impression were not duly preserved due to low quality of ink used by the Election Commission of Pakistan hence may not be identifiable. The mandate of the people would be stolen if such votes are not counted due to above-mentioned reasons. How can Imran Khan rate 2002 elections as better than 2013 when fingerprinting was also not possible or for that matter in 2008 Elections? Thumb verification is also not possible in constituencies that have been won by PTI candidates. Does it mean that none of the PTI candidates including Imran Khan won with bogus votes as he consistently claims? If thumb verification is the ultimate reason to define the integrity of elections, then how does Imran Khan rate 1970 as the most independent elections in our history when there was no thumb impression possible. We also need to emphasis that selection of ink or any other material was the sole prerogative of the election commission and had nothing to do with PML-N or any of its leaders. Also PML-N did not benefit out of any sub standard quality of ink used, as such votes would be equally shared among the candidates.
Besides the thumb verification process, there are multiple other ways to ensure the voter verification. Those include:
- Voters are able to cast their votes at specified polling stations according to their names in the electoral rolls. Once at the front of the queue the voter is required to show his / her original identity card to the polling officer who does a name check in the voters list and mark off the voter from the list.
- The picture and information about the identification mark present on the CNIC also serves as a strong security check.
- As this is done, the polling officer loudly calls out his / her name and serial number from the voter list. This facilitates all the polling agents of various political parties to verify the same from their electoral lists.
- The officer then applies an indelible ink on the individual thumb to show that he / she has cast his vote and strike his name from the voter list so that he / she cannot cast multiple votes.
- At this point the voter moves to the presiding officer who also notes down the details from the voters CNIC and after satisfying himself / herself about the identity of the voter issues a ballot paper. He too marks off on his / her list at this point.
- Imran Khan has repeatedly said that one of the contributors towards his electoral loss is due to very high number of rejected votes. He claims the number of rejected votes is significantly higher compared to previous elections.
- Based on the actual data, Imran Khan’s allegation does not hold true. For example the number of rejected votes per 1000 were 24 in 2002 elections, 28 in 2008 elections and are 32 per 1000 in 2013 elections. This is by no stretch of imagination significantly higher number compared to previous 2 elections, considering that total turn out in GE 2013 is significantly more than previous election.
- Imran Khan has consistently maintained that he has been undone in the 4 NA seats for which he has been requesting to open up these as a test case. He claims that if these 4 seats are reopened, perhaps the entire election results will be exposed.
- PTI had filed petitions with the Election Tribunals for these 4 seats. As such it was for the election tribunals and not the PML-N government to investigate these cases. Under no law can the executive perform such functions nor can it interfere in the election tribunal process. Under what law, only PTI’s 4 constituencies could have been opened? Would it have been fair if only PTI’s 4 constituencies would only be opened while other party’s cases in election tribunal would be completely ignored? In any case, once the candidates have filed their cases with the election tribunal, it is ‘opened’.
- Second, an impression has been created that PML-N is opposed to recounting of votes. Imran has never asked for recounting of votes. He has asked for the thumb verification, which according to all experts is not possible as has been explained in detail above. Now lets look at each of the 4 seats under discussion:
- The first one is Jehangir Tareen’s seat on which Imran has been conveying an impression that PML-N somehow rigged the elections in its favor. In his press conference on Aug. 11, 2014, Imran again talked about this seat in particular and said that the results started changing only after the speech of Mohammad Nawaz Sharif, which then allowed the Returning officer there to rig the elections in favor of PML-N candidate. The interesting thing is that independent candidate won from that seat while PML-N candidate was a distant 3rd.
- The second seat is NA 110 where Khawaja Asif won the elections. The PTI candidate filed the petition against election irregularities. Interestingly, there were zero irregularities observed in this constituency as compared to 55 irregularities in NA 1 from where Khan Sahib won the elections. In any case, the PTI candidate never appeared in the tribunal in spite of notices sent to him. Finally the tribunal penalized the petitioner for Rs 30,000 for non-appearance. The Petitioner has now filed an appeal in Supreme Court.
- In NA 125 from where Khawaja Saad Rafique won, PTI has been most vociferous in its demand for vote verification although the margin of defeat for PTI candidate is around 38921. Recounting has been ordered in 7 polling stations. It is interesting to note that in polling stations where recounting has been ordered, 6 out of 7 polling stations, Hamid Khan has won the election. In the entire election process where 2,17,762 votes were cast not even a single vote was challenged. This was one of the Constituency where Army was deployed. In the order passed by Lahore Election Tribunal, the Honourable Judge noted that the Petitioner was trying to dictate the order and hence the matter had to be transferred from Lahore to Faisalabad Election Tribunal.
- The fourth seat is NA 122 where Sardar Ayaz Sadiq won against Imran Khan. After the elections, Imran filed a petition with the election tribunal. In 8 months after the filing of the petition, Imran was issued 11 notices but did not appear even once. Finally when Khan appeared on May 7, 2014, his supporters created mayhem breaking things within the premises of the high court. The judge left the court and refused to undertake the court proceedings and the case was adjourned. Imran finally apologized. To put the blame on PML-N or the candidate is misleading the entire nation. On September 4, 2014,the High Court wanted to take a decision but Imran’s lawyer requested for yet another adjournment next date of hearing is September 10, 2014
- Imran has said that the reason for going to the long march is that they have been trying to get justice for 14 months without any positive response.
- PTI had filed a total of 58 complaints with the election tribunal. Out of these, 39 have been disposed off and only 19 remain. So it is wrong to conclude that no petitions have been heard. In almost all cases, the election tribunals have disposed off the PTI complaints based on lack of evidence or witnesses and without any proof of rigging. It is a standard practice all over the world that courts would dispose of a case if in its view the petition were not backed by enough evidence of the wrongdoing. If PTI considers it has not received a fair response, the issue is entirely with the judiciary and the government cannot be blamed for any delay in disposing of justice. It should also be noted that the 4 respective chief justices of the high courts set up the election tribunals and only retired judges of the high courts were appointed so that the cases could be disposed off on urgent basis. Compared to all previous elections, the tribunals have disposed off the cases much faster. Till the end of August 2014, 80 % of the cases have been disposed off.
- Election tribunals are totally biased against PTI.
- The 4 chief justices have appointed the judges for the election tribunals. By showing disregard to the functioning of the election tribunals, Imran is actually showing lack of faith in the integrity of the 4 chief justices.
- Imran has accused just about everyone for being part of the conspiracy to deprive PTI its just electoral mandate. He has accused Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, then Chief Justice of Supreme Court, the 4 provincial Chief Justices, the Chief Election Commissioner and the 4 provincial chief election commissioners. His party’s Deputy Information Secretary in a TV interview also accused Gen. Kiyani of being part of the conspiracy. Imran also alleged that a Brig of MI was also part of the conspiracy. He promised to name the Brig. During the Sialkot jalsa but so far has not come up with any name. He has also accused several other people such as Justice Ramday, Punjab Finance Secretary and several others.
- All the people accused by Imran Khan have strongly refuted the allegations of Imran Khan. The election commission has already refuted Imran’s claims of being part of the rigging conspiracy. Also Justice Ifktikhar Chaudhry has issued Defamation notice to Imran to apologize or be ready to face the judicial process. Justice Ramday likewise has also said that he will take Imran to the court.
- Most of the allegations by Imran are without any substance and are based on unsubstantiated media reports or simply on some party member’s complaint.
- Imran has consistently alleged that PML-N was actively involved in the conspiracy to rig the electoral process at all stages – pre election, Election Day rigging and post election manipulation.
- PML-N has had no role in the entire process. As explained separately, none of the PML-N nominee was appointed as neutral caretaker chief minister in any of the province. Mr. Najam Sethi’s name was proposed by PPP and not by PML-N. After assuming power as caretaker chief minister, Najam Sethi transferred a total of 14 senior ranking officials who were closely identified with Mr. Shahbaz Sharif. In his rejoinder Najam Sethi claims that he has filed a suit of defamation against Imran Khan, besides as care taker Chief Minister he changed all secretaries except 4. He did not change the education secretary because, on the request of the UK High Commissioner to Pakistan, He did not want to disrupt the UK Education Aid program worth US$500m earmarked for the Punjab province. He did not change the home secretary because Home Minister Tariq Pervez recommended him as an upright and efficient officer. He did not change the health secretary, despite objections from the PML-N that his real sister was contesting on a PTI ticket from a Lahore constituency, because he was handling the measles epidemic in the province and He didn’t want any disruption in the effort. He didn’t change the finance secretary because the new chief secretary Javed Iqbal, a Pashtun, whom I brought in from Islamabad, recommended him as an honest and efficient officer. Najam Sethi appointed a number of officials closely associated with Mr. Pervez Elahi. Some of the senior officials who had closely worked with Mr. Shahbaz Sharif who were transferred included Dr. Tauqir Shah, Fawad Hasan, Barrister Nabeel, Noor Mengal and Ali Jan.
- PTI members took oath as members of the National & Provisional Assemblies and accepted Mian Nawaz Sharif as a constitutionally elected Prime Minister.
- Imran has alleged that a significant number of ballot papers were printed at a private bazar in Lahore.
- The Election Commission has denied this outrageous charge by Imran Khan. According to the Election Commission, ballot papers were printed at Printing Corporation of Pakistan under Army’s supervision. The santity of the ballot paper was ensured as per SOP’s of Election Commission of Pakistan. Notwithstanding, PML-N had no role in this process.
- Imran Khan has alleged that everything was going right till 11.23 pm on May 11, 2013. At this stage according to Imran, only 15 % or so election results were known. At this stage, Mian Nawaz Sharif addressed the PML-N workers gathered at PML-N HQ, which was widely covered by all networks. According to Imran this address was done under a conspiracy that also involved Justice Ramday and the objective was to influence the election results with a clear message to the returning officers.
- There can be nothing more outrageous than this allegation. By this time all media networks, analyst, independent observers had already given the elections to
PML-N. Much before this time when all major networks had predicted PML-N’s outright victory. For example at 10.48 pm, Javed Chaudhry at Express News announced that PML-N is getting a simple majority. That is no more the question according to Javed Chaudhry. The panels there were discussing the challenges ahead for the PML-N government. In fact, the outcome of the overall results was clear as early as 8 pm based on the final results as well as the partial results from various constituencies. As the counting takes place, the partial results are communicated by all networks and based on the lead, it is fairly easy to predict the eventual winner. This is the practice not just in Pakistan but also even in advanced democracies such as United States where various networks do election predictions based on the margin of votes in each constituency. The tsunami, as PTI wrongly expected, was not coming and that was known as early as 7 pm based on early counting of votes.
- It is not just Mian Nawaz Sharif who claimed victory for PML-N; PTI senior leader Asad Umar also shared the same. In an interview with famous TV anchor Kamran Khan, Asad not only conceded defeat but also claimed that his party is winning elections in KPK and will form the government there. How did Asad Umar know of the eventual election results at that time? Asad was PTI’s campaign manager and in absence of Imran Khan, who was in the hospital, was in the best position to understand the overall results. All other senior leaders such as Jehangir Tareen, Arif Alvi, Shafqat Mahmood, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, and Javed Hashmi were in their constituencies and could not have the macro view of the election trends in the country.
- There was no visible change in the assessment of the election results before and after the speech of Mian Nawaz Sharif. The final results were more or less in line with the assessment and proportion.
- Justice Khalil Ramday was never even remotely engaged in the PMLN election cell and any reference towards him is a blatant lie, false and hence vehemently denied.
- Imran Khan has alleged that UNDP workers in various constituencies were told to close their operations after Mian Nawaz Sharif’s address. This according to Imran was done to ensure that Returning Officers could manipulate results, which would not be possible in the presence of UNDP workers.
- This is a totally baseless allegation, which has been denied by UNDP Country Director in a recent interview. In any case, the UNDP facility was provided on a very limited scale. This was done on a sample basis by UNDP on a very limited number of constituencies. The truth however as confirmed by UNDP Country Director is that no UNDP worker was told to pack up after the Muhammad Nawaz Sharif’s speech.
- Imran Khan has alleged that election results were manipulated resulting in the loss for PTI candidates.
- Election results are compiled and communicated to the Returning Officers by the Presiding Officers in every constituency. In each constituency, there are several polling stations managed by Presiding Officers. Once the votes have been counted, the presiding officer completes form XIV reflecting the number of votes obtained by each party candidate. Representative of every party confirming the accuracy and integrity of the vote count then signs the form. The same is then submitted to the Returning Officer who would then consolidate the overall constituency result and submit the same to the election commission.
- If the vote count was not authentic, PTI polling agents should have complained at that point to the Presiding Officer or to the Election Commission of Pakistan.
- FAFEN had 41,000 workers in all constituencies inside the polling stations. Apart from other activities, they had also established what was known as alternate election result tabulation. FAFEN representatives tabulated and compiled their own results completely independent of the Returning Officers results. Out of total 266 national assembly constituencies contested on May 11th, FAFEN and Returning Officers / Election Commission had the same winner in 264 seats. How then it is claimed that the RO’s were the main contributors towards electoral fraud.
It is most unfortunate that everyday Imran Khan comes out with frivolous allegations regarding any constituency that he wishes to target without substantiating his claims, even if, the tribunals have disposed off the matter in favour of the returned candidate.