The judicial commission constituted to probe the PTI hyped up allegations of rigging in the 2013 general election has concluded in its report that polls were in large part “organised and conducted fairly and in accordance with the law”, dropping the curtain on the much-hyped protests and claims by PTI Chairman Imran Khan of having irrefutable evidence of massive organized rigging in the elections.
The report published on the Ministry of Law website details the findings of the three-member commission headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Nasirul Mulk and comprising Justice Amir Hani Muslim and Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan.
In a nutshell, the commission has reached the following conclusion based on evidence: 2013 elections were conducted fairly and in accordance with the law; PTI’s request for a probe was not “entirely unjustified”; and plan to manipulate election has not been disclosed with any degree of specification by any of the parties.
“Based on the evidence presented before the commission it cannot be said that on an overall basis the elections were not a true and fair reflection of the mandate given by the electorate, despite some lapses by the Election Commission of Pakistan,” it reads. It does, however, maintain that the PTI’s request to probe alleged rigging in the May 2013 elections was not “entirely unjustified”.
“The commission is of the view that the PTI was not entirely unjustified in requesting the establishment of body to inquire into its suspicions and allegations regarding the 2013 general elections. However after recording the evidence and carefully going through all material placed on record the commission finds as under in respect of each term of reference (ToR):
Taking into account all the evidence on record, notwithstanding the shortcomings of the ECP as mentioned earlier in this report, the 2013 general elections were in large part organised and conducted fairly and in accordance with the law.
The plan or design to manipulate or influence the election has not been disclosed with any degree of specification by any of the parties to the proceedings nor is it discernible from material placed before the commission. Allegations against those allegedly involved in the plan/design also remained unsubstantiated by the evidence on record.
TOR 3(C): When the entire context of the elections are considered along with all the meaning of overall basis, despite some lapses by the ECP it cannot be said on the evidence before the commission on the overall basis the elections were not a true and fair reflection of the mandate given by the electorate.”
According to the terms of reference (ToR), the commission was to investigate whether the elections were manipulated or influenced in a systematic manner or by design by anyone, or not. It was also to decide whether the poll results, on an overall basis, were a true and fair reflection of the mandate given by the electorate or not.
The three-judge commission, headed by Chief Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk, had held 39 sittings and completed the hearing on July 3.
The commission — constituted under a presidential ordinance on April 3 after months of a tug of war between the PTI and the PML-N — had commenced proceedings on April 9. It recorded testimonies of 69 witnesses, including politicians, government and judicial officers and journalists.
The ordinance expected the commission to submit its findings to the government as soon as possible, preferably within 45 days of its first meeting.
KHAN ACCEPTS REPORT, SHARIF ELATED:
PTI Chairman Imran Khan while addressing a press conference in Chitral accepted the findings of the judicial commission report but expressed reservations over not being given a copy.
Khan said he would comment on the report on Friday after reading it.
Taking a jibe at Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Khan said Sharif is lucky to see the report first otherwise all the parties should have received the report simultaneously.
Imran Khan said though the PTI was not the only political party which cried foul and there were other 21 parties who claimed the elections were rigged but it was only PTI which fought the case against alleged rigging.
Meanwhile, in his address to the nation on state television, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the comprehensive report of the judicial commission had not only endorsed the government’s point of view on the issue of electoral rigging, it had also authenticated people’s mandate.
Taking a jibe at the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Sharif said “embarrassing Pakistan in the whole world by making the fair and transparent elections controversial is one regrettable chapter of our history that will not be forgotten easily.”
“Along with the world, we knew there was no rigging in elections, and we hope all those who wasted time of their countrymen will understand too,” claimed Sharif. Sharif said the verdict of the commission shows that issues can be resolved through constitutional forums and not through protests on roads or through “sit-ins”.
“Let’s take this judicial commission report as a milestone, let’s start a journey which takes us to prosperity and progress rather than towards backwardness.
“For the first time in country’s history, the government conducted a free and fair inquiry and all parties were given equal and fair opportunity to present their point of view.”
The premier claimed that today’s Pakistan is better than that of two years ago, “our economy is getting better by the day and so is our international standing”.
Sharif reiterated his resolve to free the country of terrorism saying, “We can see the results of operation Zarb-i-Azb. Our hinterlands and urban areas will soon be cleaned of terrorism.”
We are facing floods on a national level and we need to help our countrymen, he said. “I appeal to all Pakistanis to help their brothers and sisters in need due to floods,” said Sharif.
THE JC REPORT:
The commission in its 237-page report however points towards major lapses on part of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
Since the burden of proof was a basic question discussed during the proceedings of the commission, the report says that after detailing arguments from all the concerned parties about the burden of proof, the commission determined it was primarily responsibility of the parties who leveled allegations to produce proofs of rigging.
The report said since the commission was not a court of law and rather its mandate was restricted to the ToRs determined by the parties involved, thus the burden to prove the allegations primarily lies with the PTI and other parties who supported these allegations.
MISUSE OF BALLOT PAPERS:
About allegations of printing of extra ballot papers and outsourcing of their printing, the commission said that though was no evidence of misuse of ballot papers printed at the Pakistan Postal Foundation, the outsourcing and employment of additional manpower raises suspicion of a sinister design in the minds of those participating in the electioneering.
About printing of extra ballots mostly in Punjab, the commission said though there were some discrepancies but no evidence was available to suggest that the returning officers (ROs) had misused the extra ballot papers which were printed as decided by the relevant ROs.
FORMS XIV, XV:
The report said that when all the forms XV were collected, it was revealed that almost 35 per cent of the forms were missing from the bags. The report said that despite provision of some of the missing forms XVs by ROs which they had retained, still the number of the missing forms remained a problem. Even many of the forms XVs were not properly filled in under the law. It was therefore not possible to examine whether or not all the extra ballots were not used were properly accounted for through the form XVs.
Moreover, it was observed that the missing forms XVs were from all over Pakistan and had no specific pattern. Moreover, there was also no record available suggesting that the unused ballot papers had been misused.
The commission agreed to the notion by NADRA and ECP that not necessarily all those thumb impressions which could not be verified were invalid votes as all such ballot papers had been issued against valid CNIC numbers.
RIGGING IN BALOCHISTAN:
The report also concluded that despite some glaring irregularities in election in Balochistan province, on balance based on the evidence brought before the commission, it could not be found that elections in Balochistan as a whole either unfair or manipulated in accordance with a design by anybody.
“Although as seen through there were flaws in the election process on the election day in a few isolated cases but these violations cannot lead to the conclusion that the elections in Balochistan as a whole were unfair,” the report added.