The unseating of the speaker of the lower house of Parliament by the election tribunal is being hailed as a victory by Imran Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI). This comes as something of a respite for the PTI after the rejection of its claims of mass organised rigging in the 2013 elections by the judicial commission (JC). The decision in respect of NA-122 is going to do nothing to alter the overall balance of power in parliament as the PML-N has a considerable majority, but it will be something of a dent in its claim to the occupancy of the moral high ground.
Whilst there is no evidence of a nationwide organised conspiracy to rig the last general election, there are mountains of evidence of incompetence, corruption, localised rigging and the denial of the right to vote. The JC uncovered evidence of widespread failure to follow standard operating procedures by returning officers and other electoral officials, and was particularly critical of the role — or rather the lack of a role — played by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), which fared particularly badly in the judgment of the JC. It is this mountain of evidence now revealed that gives some credence to the initial claims of the PTI, even if the principal plank of its argument was found wanting. There seems to be no reason to doubt the findings of the election tribunal and the house is going to need a new speaker — who may or may not come from NA-122, depending on the outcome of the by-election, if it does take place given that Ayaz Sadiq has the right to appeal the verdict in the courts.
We now hope that the PTI does not once again go down the Dharna Road as is being trailed by Imran Khan who is threatening a gathering outside the ECP to exceed in size that which clogged the political arteries last year. The prospect of another 126 days of paralysis does nothing for the democratic experiment currently in process. Mr Khan would be better advised to get himself and his colleagues back inside the house — and proceed therefrom with dignity rather than dharna.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 24th, 2015.
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