You win some, you lose some

It wasn’t so much that he lost, as how badly. PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto came in third in NA-127. The winner was the PML-N’s Attaullah Tarar, who got 98,210 votes, beating Zaheer Abbas Khokhar, the PTI-backed independent by 15,980 votes. Bilawal was third with 15,005 votes. In short, he didn’t even get as many votes as Tarar’s lead over Khokhar.

Yet Bilawal, or at least his handlers, claimed that the election had been rigged, not by the conventional means of ballot stuffing and booth capturing, or mass impersonations, but at the level of the returning officer, where the vote totals were tampered with. Now tampering is possible, but on what scale. A narrow result may be reversed, but where there is a lead of 83,000 votes, that is not so easily covered.

I would suspect that somebody from the constituency organization is probably making flustered excuses after first having made extravagant (and unjustified) promises. After all, perhaps luckily, Bilawal wasn’t really depending on this constituency to get into the National Assembly. He did win two seats, in Qamber-Shahdadkot and Larkana.

However, his loss in Lahore has been blamed by his team as being because of the internet outage on polling day, which is said to have allowed the rigging to take place. I’ve been following elections since 1988 closely, to try to find out how they are rigged. I haven’t been able to establish how the rigging is done. What I’ve learnt is that if rigging takes place, then it is only on hotly contested seats. How hotly? I really can’t say. But I would trust any margin over 10,000. If anyone thinks that if someone is behind by 83,000 votes, that can be covered, he’s got another think coming.

OLf course, there’s the hardcore argument, which is that this result is what was being planned all along, right from the time that Imran was removed from office. The idea was to give him the sort of shock that he needed. Why does no one accept that the results were probably fair. Not overall, because there was all sorts of pre-poll rigging. This is the time when hardcore politicians have to worry. The real question is how many MPAs- or MNAs-elect, who had obtained PTI tickets, but who contested independently, will resist the greater national interest, and suddenly realize that they can’t support those guilty of the May 9 attacks?

Back in 1992, when India was having elections (Rajiv Gandhi was still alive, though that was the election when he was killed), when someone said: “Hum ne kaha Pappu Yadav ko ticket do. Woh chaar panch so booth capture karega, election jeet jaiga. Magar Pappu Yadav ko ticket nahin diya.” He was explaining why a particular party was likely to lose a certain seat. Luckily, we had previously avoided candidates like Pappu Yadav. This election, it seems that there have been a few incidents.

Note: Pappu Yadav’s ability to capture 400 or 500 booths had nothing to do with government or establishment support. He had developed that ability independently. The sort of criminalization that has happened in Indian politics has not occurred in ours. I don’t think anyone can capture a single booth without being helped. Amd I’ve not heard of criminals getting into politics. Politicians involved in criminal activities, yes. Criminal connections. But actually committing crimes, no. Real crimes, like murder and extortion, not namby-pamby ones like money laundering or income beyond means. The crimes for which Imran has been convicted would be laughed at by any self-respecting Indian politician.

One of the less noticed features of this elections was the return of former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to Pakistan after being here for the D-8 Summit in 2012. He was head of the Commonwealth Observers Group. I don’t know how effective he was. Because instead of his trademark hat, a fedora tilted back, like an American teenager in the 1950s (does anyone remember Big Moose in the Archie Comics? Yes, that’s it), he sported a sort of baseball cap, as worn by the modern American teenager.

But I don’t know if Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s pain at defeat is any less. I mean, losing is one thing, but losing to Ali Amin Gandapur is painful. And here the haircut factor is important. But by that token, Ali Wazir should have won. He didn’t. Speaking of hair, Latif Khosa won in Lahore, but Safdar Abbassi lost in Larkana. It seems a shining dome can only go so far. Ask Nawaz.


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