Wednesday, 26 November 2014

See No Rigging

With another showdown between the government and Imran Khan on the horizon, it is important to revisit the root of the current strife; rigging in the general elections of 2013. While much has been said about this subject, we still appear to have people who are not correctly informed as to what happened, or is alleged to have happened, and what are the evidences to support such allegations.

The crux of the arguments from the disinterested, misinformed commentators boils to what I came across in an op-ed around two months ago. Basically that neither the agitators have

“(1) a theory of how the (election) process could have been hijacked; and (2) evidence that the process was indeed hijacked in the manner suggested.”

This contention is just very, very wrong. Since the main battleground is Punjab, let’s focus on the theory and evidence of rigging there.

The basic allegation or theory is that the ROs or returning officers, that were from the judiciary, were not under the ECPs control and influenced the results in favour of one political party; the PMLN. The Election Commission itself has since admitted, and FAFEN has pointed out, that the ROs were not under its control. The ECP has further admitted that the ROs changed polling schemes in various constituencies and cleared many candidates without verification of eligibility to contest polls in light of the constitution.

For example, the constitution states that a person is disqualified from becoming a member of the National Assembly if he has not repaid a loan “for more than one year from the due date, or has got such loan written off”. Thus, according to the constitution, Nawaz Sharif (loan default) and Fehmida Mirza (load write-off) were not eligible to contest polls and are currently members of the National Assembly in violation of the Constitution of Pakistan, which is otherwise supreme.

However, the main transgression the ROs are alleged to have undertaken is changing the results in certain constituencies in favour of the PMLN. That is to say, that the votes cast for one party might be more than the PMLN, but the ROs, who were in charge of tabulating and announcing results, disregarded facts and ballots cast. Instead, they misused their authority to grant the PMLN votes that never existed, or docked votes cast to other parties, to produce a fake or forged result card in favour of the PMLN candidate/s.

In this endeavour they were often assisted by the POs or presiding officers, who delayed/refused announcing results in individual polling stations in order to give ROs time to change results, and/or refused to give polling agents of rival parties a signed Form XIV or statement of count as proof of polling record at individual polling stations.

A further allegation is that the Punjab Police favoured the PMLN candidates and facilitated them instead of trying to stop the party’s high handedness.

It is argued that the ROs, who were from the judiciary, supported the PMLN on account of Former CJP Iftikhar Chaudhary. Iftikhar Chaudhary’s conduct during his time as CJ Vis a Vis the PMLN is open to interpretation. However it is worth noting that his son, the flamboyant Mr. Arsalan Ifthikar took residence at the Punjab CM House Annexe to better conduct his well-documented “business” dealings. This was revealed in a leaked video of then Punjab Law minister Rana Mashood, which though PMLN sympathizers were quick to call forged, the minister himself confirmed as genuine.

The connivance of Presiding Officers and other polling staff, as well as the police, is blamed on the then Punjab Caretaker CM and journalist Najam Sethi. Sethi has since been personally appointed chief of the Pakistan Cricket Board by Nawaz Sharif, in violation of the PCB constitution. After courts removed Sethi, Mr. Nawaz appointed him again. More recently, Nawaz Sharif again personally nominated Mr. Sethi for the post of ICC Chairman.

Mr Sethi has never played cricket at the international or first class level, never commentated, nor does he have renowned administrative experience.

As caretaker CM of Punjab, Sethi was tasked with providing a neutral environment for elections, specifically with purging the influence of Shahbaz Sharif in the Punjab administration. Najam Sethi did not change the home secretary of the province, retaining the secretary that was an appointee of the PMLN government. The Punjab Police is ultimately answerable to the home secretary.

The bulk of the polling staff and POs are teachers and staff of government schools & colleges. Najam Sethi appointed Mubasher Raza as secretary higher education. He was serving as a secretary under the previous regime as well, described as a “favourite son” of Shahbaz, even by the Jang Group. Najam also did not change the Secretary Schools, Aslam Kamboh.

Basically, the Police and most, if not all, POs and polling staff, remained in the hands of Shahbaz Sharif appointees during election. It is not completely unreasonable then that they are blamed for manipulation of the process.

Aslam Kamboh’s role was particularly worrisome, as even before election candidates accused him of being tasked by Shahbaz to rig elections using polling staff.

For his part Najam Sethi explained that he had retained Aslam Kamboh at the request of UK High Commissioner, so as not to disrupt the UK Education Aid Program for Punjab. The UK’s Punjab School Education Programme-I ran from Dec 2009 to June 2014. The UK’s Punjab Education Support Programme-II runs from Feb 2013 to Mar 2019. Aslam Kamboh left the post of Secretary Schools for a choice posting as soon as Shahbaz Sharif assumed Punjab CM-ship, i.e. June 2013. It is unlikely that either of the Aid programs, or another program we might be unaware of, came to an undocumented end in June 2013. It is also unlikely that the month of May 2013 was pivotal in the outcome of said programs.

Still, what is the hard evidence of rigging? Before looking at the evidence though, we must acknowledge that the evidence collection & analysis process itself has been rigged in favour of the PMLN.

This is because the evidence in our case is the votes. And analysis of the votes is to be done by NADRA, which makes them, let’s say, forensic experts in the matter. Would you say this case was fair, if the accused illegally removed the forensic expert? And when the expert was reinstated by the courts, the accused threatened his school going daughter and forced him to flee the country?

For this is what is happened here, in front of everyone. The Prime Minister of our country had the school going daughter of NADRA chairman threatened, after failing in his illegal attempt to dislodge said chairman. After the chairman fled, Nawaz Sharif appointed one of his own in his place, who will now head examining of evidence against the premier.

It is unfortunate that many commentators, even those belonging to the legal profession, just ignore this fact, fact, like it didn’t happen, let alone admit it has bearing on the matter at hand.

Of course counter arguments and difference of opinion can never be ruled out. One can hold the opinion that threatening the life of a school going girl was in the best interests of democracy. One can contend that putting the police and polling staff in the hands of Sharif loyalists ensured a neutral administration. One can even argue that Mr Sethi has cricketing pedigree beyond mortal comprehension. But to disregard or feign ignorance of these events altogether is troublesome when assessing the 2013 elections.

Coming back to the election process, it has often only been explained until counting of the votes. The most important part however comes after; the sealing of all election material in a polling station including ballots, counterfoils (which record thumb impressions against each ballot and serve as countercheck for each vote cast) and statements of counts (number of votes cast against candidates votes have been cast for) of that station in a polling bag.

Sealing all the material in polling bags preserves the record, meaning it cannot be tampered with/changed afterwards. This is the guarantee that records cannot be changed after the counting process is completed.

Now let’s visit Lahore’s constituency NA 124.

The constituency had 264 polling stations, translating, ideally, to 264 sealed bags with polling materials, most importantly ballots & counterfoils as they were on election day. The PMLN candidate was declared winner by the RO and opposing parties cried foul. When inspection was finally carried out, 152 polling bags out of 264 were found not sealed or with their seals broken. 152 or 57% of the polling bags were tampered with, meaning the amount of ballots and counterfoils in them were illegally changed, in all probability. Because self-unsealing bags are not yet in production. Another 80 polling bags, or 30%, upon inspection revealed proven destruction of record and absence of counterfoils. Meaning evidence of actual number of votes cast in those polling stations had been conveniently removed, opening the door for mass ballot stuffing.

In NA 125, Lahore, there were complaints of rigging even when polling was going on against Khuwaja Saad Rafique of the PMLN. After the polling came to an end and the votes were counted, the presiding officers delayed issuing statements of count, and later flat out refused. The constituency’s results were announced the next day. When the “results” were finally put out, Khuwaja Saad Rafique appeared to have polled around 20K more votes than his provincial assembly counterparts in the constituency. This, to my knowledge, is the only constituency in Pakistan that witnessed such a phenomenon.

The discrepancy occurred not because of Saad Rafique’s considerable charm, but because statements of count were forged in the ROs office in his favour. Over a dozen forgeries for polling station statements were made with 100% voter turnout, ALL of them with Saad Rafique getting maximum votes. Many other forgeries of statements of count, hastily compiled, did not even contain a fake POs signature. ALL of these too have Saad Rafique receiving maximum number of votes. These have been brought to the attention of the tribunal, and even shared online, to no avail.

Upon inspection, 1 ½ years after the election, the record was found desecrated. Trash instead of polling material in polling bags, and in polling bags that did contain some polling material, voters lists were often missing. Where voter lists were available, the number of votes RO had forged on statement of count did not tally with the number of ballots present.

In NA 122, Lahore, Ayaz Sadiq is alleged to have rigged his way to victory. His “victory” too came after an inexplicable delay in the announcement of results. The tribunal in this case has not been able to inspect the record despite its best efforts for 1 ½ years. However, a glimpse into the constituency is provided by vote verification in six polling stations of its provincial counterpart, PP 147. According to the result manufactured by the RO 4,700 votes were polled here. However, only over 3,700 could be recovered from the polling bags. 700 of these were cast using fake CNICs. This is to say 1000 votes only existed in the ROs imagination, and a further 700 were fraudulent. That’s 36%.  

In NA 128, the RO decided that PMLN candidate Malik Afzal Khokar shall be declared the winner, for reasons best known to him. Upon inspection of the record it has been revealed that 175, 175, POs did not submit any record of ballot papers used in their polling stations. Meaning ballot stuffing was, for all intents and purposes, untraceable. Even with a free hand in 175 polling stations, 30 thousand votes that the RO had counted did not actually exist. A further 21K ballots were missing when the polling bags were brought forward.

NA 118, Lahore. Malik Riaz, the PMLN candidate had “won” the election there, but an audit of the votes was proving troublesome, which led to the Tariq Malik episode. In the end, it was revealed that no record was found of over 80 thousand votes in the constituency’s polling bags. That is to say; the RO had added over 80 thousand votes to the final result of the election no evidence of whom was present upon physical inspection of the record.

Now, for anyone keeping count, that’s 5 out of the 12 Lahore constituencies that the PMLN “won”. 41% of the constituencies where the PMLN were declared winners by ROs on May 13/14 in Lahore have revealed evidence of mass scale result manipulation. I have deliberately not mentioned thumb print verifications because PMLN and their sympathizers are campaigning hard to undermine credibility of thumb print verifications.

Even without counting the unverified votes, mass manipulation is evident in 5 of the 12 Lahore constituencies the PMLN won. Manipulation, not irregularities. Use of bad ink is an irregularity, late opening of a polling station is an irregularity, lesser than subscribed amount of polling booths is an irregularity. Forged statements of count, missing counterfoils or missing ballots, unsealed and tampered with polling bags, and absence of votes counted by the RO towards final results, from the physical plane of existence, is evidence of manipulation.

In fact, short of Nawaz Sharif confessing in an address to the nation, there cannot possibly be any other evidence to substantiate the mass fraud that took place on May 13th.

5 of 12, in Lahore, the provincial capital with all the media’s eyes fixed upon it. 41%. How is that for “industrial scale”?

And it is not all. It can easily be 6 of 12, because NA 127 Lahore also has similar issues with statements of counts, it even has cases where the RO awarded more votes than were registered in a polling station, but the tribunal decided not to inspect the record. For reasons best known to everyone. 50%.

This phenomena is not restricted to Lahore either, this is a theme. According to what has been reported in the media so far, in almost every Punjab constituency where the tribunal was kind enough to grant a vote audit, similar mass fraud was unearthed.

In NA 139 Kasur PMLN had won. Upon PPP candidate’s request for audit of the result, it was revealed that of the 272 polling bags representing each polling station in the constituency, 12 contained litter instead of votes of the corresponding polling station. 32 polling bags did not contained counterfoils that did not have thumb impressions on them, 5 did not contain counterfoils to begin with. 27 polling stations had votes present far exceeding the number of counterfoils.

In Hafizabad, 54 K counterfoils were recovered while the RO had stated that 72K votes were cast. A total of 21K were declared bogus.

In Lodrhan NA 154, inspection revealed that seals had been broken on polling bags from 80% of polling stations. 9,900 votes were rejected to in a winning margin of 10K votes, and a further 20,000 were proved to be bogus.

Again, except for a Nawaz Sharif confession on TV, the evidence is in the polling bags. What’s preventing the rest of it to come forward is the abysmal, non-transparent and illegal conduct of election tribunals. The election tribunals were legally mandated to decide these petitions within 4 months, which they did not. Even with the illegal delays, the tribunals have been incredibly reluctant to order inspection of records, let alone vote verification by NADRA. An extremely vast majority of petitions have been dismissed without any inspection of votes whatsoever. Even in instances where inspection is ordered and massive manipulation uncovered, like NA 124 with 87 % of polling bags were tampered or containing destroyed, missing record, the tribunals have ruled in favour of returning candidate. Who invariably tend to be from the PMLN.

It really is sad that people still prefer to indulge in partisan bickering rather than wake up to how comprehensively the elections, their elections, were manipulated. 

Saturday, 1 November 2014

PPP, Thar, Death & Hunger

In the second week of October it was revealed that around 300,000 bottles of mineral water, meant for the drought victims in Thar had expired in a government warehouse. Earlier in the year, wheat meant for the victims had met the same fate. At least 31 lives were lost there in October and 234, mostly children, in the preceding episode.

A reporter revealed that the district administration of Thar at that time was in the hands of Makhdom Amin Fahim’s offspring. He is the senior vice chairman of the PPP. Meanwhile an inquiry commission formed to probe the handling of the drought back in April determined that the Sindh Health Department and elected representatives of the area were to be blamed. They belong to the PPP.

In between the deaths in Thar was of course the PPP’s jalsa in Karachi. Where Bilawal, and the rest of the PPP leadership, failed to elaborate on their plans for dealing with the situation in Thar. After all, death in Thar is hardly new. In fact, it’s been here for a while. Over 1000 people died there in the last couple of years. Just because the media made some noise this time doesn’t mean priorities should change.

What was worth mentioning then? Well, Bhuttos for one. Bhuttoism for another. Shahadat. Jamhoriat. & Bhuttoism. Sprinkle some “causes” that you never did anything about when in power on top and glorious leadership is born.

Unfair perhaps, they did do something about them. In his speech that day Bilawal took credit for the PPP responding to the Hazara-Shia sit-ins in Quetta & sacrificing their government. Hmph.

Syed Nasir Ali Shah, the Hazara MNA from Quetta staged a sit in at the entrance of Parliament house in October of 2011. He belonged to the PPP & resorted to protesting against his own party after 14 Hazaras were gunned down in Quetta, and no action was taken by the government. 2011.

Why didn’t the PPP government in the province take any action? Nawab Aslam Raisani was the Chief Minister of the province, the tribal head  of Raisani tribe, influential in Mastung. Mastung, coincidentally, houses the biggest ASWJ seminary in Balochistan and witnessed numerous attacks on Shia pilgrims.

One of the first acts of Nawab Raisani after taking over as CM Balochistan was to appoint Nawabzada Humayun Jogezai as chief of police in Quetta. Jogezai, often accused of having links to the LeJ, in the past had ordered police to open fire on Hazara protesters killing 25. He is Nawab Raisani’s son-in-law. Coincidentally, Hazara killings picked up after he was appointed.

The sacrifice of the PPP government, for two whole months, wasn’t the first course of action either. Initially the PPP CM had proposed to settle the Hazara mourners issue by sending them truckloads of tissue papers. The PPP’s tissue paper strategy worked for a couple of years. Finally protests broke out throughout the country & tissue papers ran short. Hence the PM descended upon Quetta. Where Hazaras were reminded that there would be no dialogue with him, prompting one to ask;

“Kyun PM viceroy hain ya hum jaisay insaan nahin hain?”

Once the PPP made the ultimate sacrifice and removed its government, a couple of peculiar incidents took place. One PPP minister, Ali Madad Jattak, was arrested with 15 guards because Hazaras had complained he had ties to a “defunct militant group”. Chatter was that the guards were LeJ men.

Alamdar road had witnessed two blasts, one a suicide blast inside a snooker club and then a more deadly one from an explosive laden car. In February the Hazaras were targeted again, this time an explosive filled water tanker was used.

Later in the year, FC recovered 104,480 KGs of explosives from a warehouse in Quetta, the largest such find in the country’s history. The officials described the warehouse as a “car-bomb factory” complete with mixers, detonators, remote controls and of course lots of explosives to fit into vehicles. Coincidentally, the car-bomb factory belonged to a PPP leader who was later arrested.

Clearly the PPP, contrary to popular opinion, did a lot to the Hazaras.

Where did the bright speech come from any way? One influence clearly was the party old guard, who themselves spent the night recounting medical benefits of Bhuttoism. The other is the group of supposedly neutral journalists, intellectuals & NGO workers who were more excited by the PPP rally than the actual participants bused-in from around Sindh.

Is it a coincidence that almost everyone losing their shit about how many pressing issues Bilawal mentioned in his speech has been totally oblivious to the drought & the deaths in Thar? ALL of them didn’t read the last week?

Having party loyalists embedded in the media cannot possibly be a disadvantage, but the PPP is well versed in the impossible. Propagandists are a valuable resource but for external consumption, not for internal evaluation. It was just silly how Bilawal lifted his arguments from PPP apologists ever present in the media, & social media.

Sindh is underdeveloped since partition and because we had no resources. Everyone wants the blockades around Bilawal House removed because they want me to be killed. Corruption allegations are just an excuse to malign us. Governance isn’t that better elsewhere either.

Finger on the pulse.

This I am not making up; in his first interview after the 18th October jalsa in Karachi, chairman of the PPP Bilawal claimed that 60% of Pakistan’s population is young, and so is he. Therefore, he can relate to them more than any other leader in Pakistan.

Just like Justin Bieber can.

Yes, a billionaire kid who has lived most of his life outside Pakistan, doesn’t even know the language, believes he can relate to a country where, according to World Bank, 60% of the population lives under the international poverty line, more than anyone else; because he is young.

The level of delusion is staggering, breath-taking.

So while the young prince lives in his bubble, relating to his darbaris in the party & the media, where does that leave the people? After all, it is the Pakistan “Peoples” Party.

Among death & hunger, of course. Those are the gifts the party has brought them. Thar & the Hazaras are but just a glimpse.

Consider that all over Pakistan 6,126 lives have been claimed by suicide bombings, in our history. By just 2011, the PPP had lorded over, and participated in, the killing of over 7,000 people in Karachi alone. The figure must be over 10,000 now, as the killing hasn’t stopped.

Hunger is the bigger hallmark though. Shortage of food & malnourishment is not just an issue in Thar, it persists throughout Sindh to a disgraceful extent. In Ethiopia the stunting rate for children is 51%, in Eritrea it is 44%, in Sudan 40%. In Sindh it is 56.7% and in the loyal PPP stronghold of rural Sindh, it’s 63.3%.

63.3% in 2014.

Death & hunger.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Working Paper On Political Implications Of Disease In Journalism

A strange cosmic event occurred yesterday. I saw a number of people criticising MQM for putting someone’s life in danger. The someone being Khursheed Shah of the PPP, the number of people being the many past & present PPP loyalists in the media. 

This shouldn’t be a surprise then should it? If PPP were threatened, PPP would come to the rescue. Not exactly. Over the last 6 or so years, the MQM have not only threatened, they have killed plenty of PPP people. It hasn’t really bothered the gents in question. Of course the lives of low level party workers or caught in cross fire innocents are less dear to intellectuals than the lives of venerated meter readers/leaders, but that’s not the complete story.

A closer look at the situation reveals that the enlightened people are angry not because of the destination, but because of the route MQM have chosen to get there. Blasphemy allegation. Thou shall not mix religion with politics, lest bad things happen. 

Or a wonderful thing. For the last 6 years, the same people have been so quiet about the MQM that you would think they were too busy shitting their pants, or that their drugs were being held hostage, or that they were just plain incapable of sight or comprehension when it came to the party. Because the party that has somewhere between 10-to-35 thousand armed combatants at its command, which it uses to kill political opponents, to kidnap and to extort, (when they are not secularizing the environment) never had to hear any complains about its conduct from our friends.

Yet they have now found their voice. As soon as MQM played the blasphemy card, it became evident that the avowedly liberal are capable of not only witnessing MQM’s activities, but also adept at speaking up to the Namaloom among us. 

Which is why we must perhaps rethink the label of PPP loyalists, for these are men, and women, persons, loyal not to any political party, but only to ideology. So much so, that they do not see anything outside of an ideological context. 

For example. Killing people in the name of religion.  *Blood boiling*. 

See, religion is a no go, religion based politics, religious violence. So killing people in the name of religion is wrong. Their definition of any title they grant each other is simply “one who opposes any ills that befall us because of religion & religion alone”. Hence the blasphemy outrage. 

Once you take the religion part out of it, they become placated.

For example. Killing people.  *crickets chirping*

Nothing. This is why as MQM, PPP & ANP have murdered thousands upon thousands in Karachi, to go along with extortion and other minor offences, our friends with ideological clarity have remained at peace with these parties. The reasons for killing and extortion by these parties are strictly secular, so it’s ok. 

Consider that in the many, many, many decades between 2007 and 2011 around 7,000 people were shot dead in Karachi. Also consider that in the short while between 1947 and 2014, around 6,123 people have been killed in the whole of Pakistan via suicide bombings. Now contrast the outrage.

Again, here’s why; they simply do not see a murder if it is not a murder in the name of religion. In fact the concept of crime as a whole is lost to these folk. Whether it be money laundering, stealing, kidnapping, extortion, land grabbing & of course killing, it simply does not register as a crime unless it is done in the name of religion or done by religious outfits (because they do it in the name of religion, duuhhh).

People who suffer from this condition are called Non-Facetious Peeplyas or NFPs for short. The condition is called NFPtitis. And its discovery helps explain many aspects of the, much talked about yet hitherto unexplained, political deadlock at the journo-worker level.

See, NFPtitis has political choice implications and it renders the moral, legal and magnetic compass of a patient obsolete. This in turn leads to a lot of confusion & anger when NFPs are dealing with political opponents. A great example to consider would be their interaction with PTI folk.

The new party on the block is largely fuelled by affluent upper middle class types from urban areas. These are largely non-ideological individuals who stayed away from politics until half a decade ago. Their view of crime is not shaped by an ideological leaning.

That is to say; they consider killing people a crime, and this is important, even if it is not done in the name of religion. This holds true also for stealing, kidnapping, extortion & other offences. Also worth noting is that they harbour  disdain for the excesses committed by political elite & can’t shake of a sense of injustice borne from the old guard parties, metaphorically speaking,  literally getting away with murder.

So when they interact with an NFP who’s propagating the case for, say, PPP or MQM they would have a certain aloofness or aggression. The aloofness because they have not, & the aggression because the PPP has, been involved in killings, corruption & other such stuff.

On their part, an NFP believes that PPP has done no killing & corruption because, as explained earlier, the NFP is programmed to register a crime only when it’s done in the name of religion. NFPs are thus, in their mind, presenting the case not of criminals, but normal politicians. The NFPs also tend to believe that middle class focused politics is not the best way to go. They constantly hallucinate about a young feudal billionaire prince as the messiah who can shout the lower classes into prosperity.

Encounters between the two thus leave the PTI folk amazed that there are people asinine enough to defend such criminals. While the NFPs are left wondering how people can be so self-righteous & vicious, not to mention who mock Marx’s vision of dynastic rule by billionaire capitalists to empower the lower classes. Crazy talk comrade.

This is a genuine problem which has gone unaddressed for too long. The PTI folk, unable to comprehend how seemingly educated people in media can openly support criminals & murderers, conclude that NFPs are on the party payroll. The NFPs, impervious to crime committed by a PPP type party because of NFPtitis, are unable to comprehend how seemingly educated people on social media can be so hateful. They conclude that the PTI folk are intolerant trolls. Fascist, say those in terminal stages of NFPtitis.

All the hate because they don't understand each other, and that because of one silly disease. Sigh. 

This chasm greatly pains me, and needs urgent redress. So people can live in peace & harmony. And Karachi. However, great challenges mar this endeavour. On the one hand, cleansing lifelong ideology from the NFPs is too much to ask for. On the other hand, indoctrination of all middle class urbanites is too tedious a task. 

What to do? Have no fear, for my suggestion to resolve the issue at hand is both, like me, brilliant and simple. Legalize marijuana. 

I mean crime. Legalize crime. It solves everything.

The NFPs’ worldview comes in line with the rest of the country, AND the urban middle classes lose their sense of injustice & hate towards parties that NFPs love. We can thus live in an ideological utopia where nonsense concepts like crime & law won’t hamper us from siding with the thief of our choice. And you know there won’t be murder in such a society, because we won’t admit that anyone was murdered. Like Murtaza. 

You’re all welcome.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

On Rigging

First, a few observations on the new narrative being constructed about rigging; specifically the ‘electiontribunals’ argument made famous by who appears to be Fakhruddin Ibrahim’s son. While many went gaga over it yesterday, this 'view' has been here for a month now. I first read it in a Dawn column at the start of last month, and in a Five Rupees blog the next day. Since then it has been furiously parroted by at least one PMLN guy on TV; the new Punjab law minister. 

The argument basically is that the election tribunals are working fine, with 78% (latest FAFEN report) of the petitions disposed of already. ‘Already’ and ‘fine’ here are obviously relative to which side of the political divide you are.

The tribunals are supposed to conduct hearings day-to-day and under no circumstances grant an adjournment of more than 7 days. They broke the law and granted adjournments of more than 7 days on 2,393 occassions. And 'already' it is almost a year after the stipulated time period for settling the petitions, with the new assemblies having served 25% of their term, and the process isn’t done. Next will come appeals in the Supreme Court.

More importantly, the disposal of these petitions doesn’t have as much bearing on settling the rigging issue as you would think. That has to do more with the manner of their disposal.

Consider that 26 petitions never made it to tribunals, 28 were withdrawn and 22 dismissed due to non-prosecution. By far the largest number, 126, were dismissed on technical grounds, these include some of MQM’s wonders in Karachi, and 30 were dismissed due to ‘unknown reasons’ (FAFEN tried and failed to obtain copy of orders).

Petitions which went to full trial and couldn’t be proved stand at 62. Petitions accepted stands at 24, with the most number of de-seated MPs belonging to the PMLN at 10.

62-to-24 is a pretty serious ratio. Make that 62-to-25 after another MP, again from the PMLN, was de-seated on allegations of rigging in PP-97 Gujranwala.

Additionally, even the petitions that went to full trial and couldn’t be proved include many where influential government figures held sway and recounts or vote verifications were never carried out.

Which brings us to NA 110. Khuwaja Asif’s victory here was challenged by the PTI as one of four constituencies where they demanded recount and vote verification. Video evidenceof PMLN polling agents stuffing ballots was also available.

Vote verification was never carried out. Instead, as Mr Ibrahim pointed, the tribunal found that the petitioner was non-serious. This example was also quoted in the initial five rupees blog, which sourced the two pages of the verdict from a forum. Also available on the forum was the version of the petitioner, which has been ignored by both the initial blog and the recent article.

The petitioner claimed that he had in fact attended all hearings but the court did not grant the request for vote verification. Later when he travelled abroad with the consent of the tribunal, a hearing was set in his absence and he was declared absent and disinterested in said hearing.

So while vote verification, or even a recount, never took place, the official record for this petition will read “not proved in trial”.

The order in NA 110 by election tribunal apparently annoyed with adjournments from petitioner is dated May 12. On May 16, Speaker of the national assembly Ayaz Sadiq got his stay order extended against recount in NA 122. He clearly hasn’t annoyed any judge. NA 122 is the second NA constituency where the initial demand for recounting and verification was made.

A glimpse into this constituency is provided by vote verification in six polling stations of its provincial counterpart, PP 147. The record for the 6 polling stations showed that around 4,700 votes were polled here. However, only over 3,700 could be recovered from the bags. Around 700 of them were cast using fake CNIC numbers on the counterfoils.

The third NA is 125 with Khwaja Saad Rafique. The petition filed against him states that at the very least 15 polling stations in the constituency that polled at 100 percent should be opened up for verification. 15 different polling stations had a voter turnout of 100 percent. No verification has been ordered.

Voters in the area filmed and photographed Khuwaja Saad barging into one women’s polling station after the other, an upright police SP in tow. The current minister later claimed that he went to the polling stations because all of them, and these are his words, “were taken over by PTI women”.

In the storied history of Pakistani elections, this is the first instance an MNA and a police SP had to rush to different polling stations in order to liberate them from women.

There is another instance of a polling incident involving women & PMLN. In the by-elections after the 2008 election, PMLN workers and police barged into a women’s polling station. They grabbed the ballots from PML-Q women supporters. Before running away with the ballots, they beat the women, molested and “de-shalwared” them, as witnessed and reported here by Marvi Memon, current PMLN MNA.

The last NA constituency is NA 154. It saw Siddique Khan Baloch gain 40,000 or so votes overnight to beat Jehangir Tareen by around 10,000 votes, with rejected votes over 9,000. 2 days later his historic turnaround victory made sense when it was announced he would be joining the PMLN.

After a year of stays when recounting commenced the ballots were found infested with termites. Polling bags are supposed to be sealed after counting so no votes can be added or taken out. 80% were unsealed.

Overall, the three most common complaints in the election process have been:-

1)     ROs, who were judges, helping one party or another & fudging the vote counts provided by Presiding Officers, a la “typo”.
2)      Collusion of POs & polling staff with one party or another to stuff ballots, slow down women’s voting etc.
3)      Refusal to sign and hand over Form XIVs, polling details and vote count, by POs to polling agents. This can later to be used to tally with ROs counts. But only if you get it, get it?

In fact, according to FAFEN, 212 of the petitions that made it election tribunals levelled allegations of corrupt or illegal practices by the administration, election officials and/or polling staff.

This has different connotations for different areas. In Balochistan of course the military didn’t want Akhtar Mengal to win and large scale voter suppression, PMLN’s Abdul Qadir Baloch won by polling a whopping 7,000 votes, helped achieve that end. In Karachi the votes were going to the MQM or the polling staff were going to boris. Etc.

So who did it in Punjab, & how? Nobody talks about this for obvious reasons, but I am sure everyone in the know, knows. In the first week after the election bureaucrats in Lahore were telling anyone who would listen that Aslam Kamboh & Justice Ramday were the king’s men who did what was necessary.

The Election Commission admitted, and FAFEN pointed out, that they did not have complete authority over the ROs. The ROs are answerable to the courts and the POs to their relevant government departments, which for a large part happen to be the education department.

In subsequent reports FAFEN has recommended that the ECP should be empowered to suspend and take action against these public functionaries.

However, the damage in this election has been done. Perhaps stung after finding ‘radi’ filled in polling bags of Kasur, Aitezaz Ahsan is the first and only person I can think of who spoke about Justice Ramday & Justice Khwaja Sharif coordinating the activities of ROs on May 11, to the benefit of the winners in Punjab.

Some police officers were transferred from Punjab to Balochistan before Najam Sethi took office as caretaker CM, not when he was there. While Muneeb & Khwaja Saad will have you believe he shuffled around the Punjab government as much as humanly possible, he did forget to remove one guy.

Aslam Kamboh, who had been serving as Shahbaz Sharif’s secretary for schools since 2009, was accidentally & totally unintentionally allowed to remain in that position by future chairman PCB Najam Sethi during elections. No wonder POs, Gov school teachers, were so reluctant to sign Form XIVs. 

Nobody has publically taken his name so far, but the PTI have hinted at it lately, so he might come up before 14th August.

Will it make a difference? Not likely. In a country where the caretaker CM of a province said on air that rigging took place & he wasn’t “allowed” to go outside on election day, in the same show where the anchor had ballots in his hand, people are still looking for evidence of rigging.

Evidence that can satisfy these people, and the Pakistani courts, is hard to come by. It is even harder to come by against the Sharif family. Affidavits against them by colluders in riggings past are not it, nor are admissions of money laundering, videos of their goons beating people or even audio tapes of Shahbaz Sharif influencing a judge.

There’s never any ‘evidence’ against the Sharifs.

While it's hard to match the resolve shown in not finding evidence against the Sharifs, people on the other side now have somewhat comparable views on rigging. With the ECP & judiciary already viewed as controversial, to say the least, vote verification by NADRA seemed the only alternative that could satisfy them. The whole episode with NADRA chief Tariq Malik, from his illegal removal by Nawaz Sharif to the current arrest plans, has put an end to that option. And while the court noted that Tariq Malik was threatened & put under pressure to resign, evidence against the Sharifs again eluded them.

Well, buckle up then.