- Constitute election rigging commission — or else!
Shrill protests and slogan-chanting by opposition members in the new National Assembly commenced on August 17, the same day Imran Khan was elected prime minister. The dissenting chorus of voices nearly drowned out his maiden speech, the most cherished moment in any politician’s career. Bad blood between the jubilant PTI and dejected opposition, particularly PML-N was nothing new, but was exacerbated by allegations of rigging in July 25 general elections, a charge provided currency by the mysterious crash of Election Commission of Pakistan’s Results Transmission System, and other alleged instances of mismanagement at polling booths. While sour loser’s challenging the results has become an ingrained norm, and every election is characterised by its own highly inventive and fine-spun fixing theories, the RTS collapse and subsequent time-lag in conveying outcomes provided convenient ammunition on this occasion.
While the PTI readily acceded to the opposition demand of forensic audit of contentious constituencies, and opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif maintained that PM Imran Khan unconditionally offered to constitute a parliamentary probe committee towards this end, the sensitive issue still remains unresolved after three weeks. With the joint session of parliament to be addressed by the President planned for September 13, the National Assembly’s first regular session on the following day, and the desired rigging commission nowhere in sight, fireworks will unfortunately but certainly be on the parliamentary agenda for those days, no doubt to the chagrin of the public and voters. The PML-N-PPP divide, which is visible even in Senate working, might diminish overall impact of the opposition protest, but to avoid unpleasantness the PTI should appease the opposition by timely acceding to its demand in a spirit of conciliation and clemency. The NA speaker during a Monday meeting with members from all parties, and the foreign minister also hinting at early redress, pleaded for preserving sanctity of parliament, while the Senate Standing Committee on Interior headed by PPP’s Rehman Malik sent letters to all political parties and independents to furnish details of irregularities with ‘irrefutable evidence’ by September 30 for further action. PML-N should refrain from making a reckless mockery of House decorum and functions, which leave a bad impression and prove counter-productive.