It’s Imran Khan’s turn in the barrel
The voters went to the allocated polling stations early in the morning of July 25 to take part in the 13th general elections. The voting started at 8 a.m. amidst sea of doubts, skepticism, hopes and high emotions. 85000 polling stations had been established all over the country and elaborate arrangements were made by the caretakers to ensure free and fair elections. For the first time, the Army spared 350,000 troops to ensure security and transparent elections. Extraordinary preparations had become essential in the wake of disturbed security situation, extreme political polarization, intense PML-N and PTI rivalry, and former’s anti-judiciary cum Establishment narrative.
Till the winding up of polling process at 6 pm, there were no complaints of rigging or mismanagement heard from any quarter. Over 55% voters polled their votes. Results of counting of votes of each candidate started appearing on TV screens from 7 pm onward. All went well till midnight after which all except PTI started complaining about poll rigging. President PML-N Shahbaz Sharif (SS) flanked by Mushahid Hussain, Maryam Aurangzeb and Musadiq Malik held a hurried press conference at 11 pm. They complained of lack of transparency and widespread irregularities in elections.
They alleged that at certain polling stations, Returning Officers refused to hand over Form-45 containing official results to their polling agents. Allegedly, they were maltreated and forcibly shunted out while counting of votes was going on. They alleged that results of their winning candidates were purposely withheld. Describing the elections as the worst ever held in the history of Pakistan, Shahbaz rejected the results. Rana Sanaullah termed the elections as electoral terrorism. Similar complaints were aired by PPP, MQM-P, PSP, MMA, BNP, JUI-F and TLP. Future stance of PML-N was to be announced on the following day after consultation with other grieving parties.
ECP Secretary Babar Yaqub vainly tried to cool down the tempers of the complainants. He admitted that failure of transmission system procured from abroad caused the delay in transmitting results. Another excuse given was that some polling agents had themselves left the rooms once they learnt that their candidates were losing.
Earlier on, before and during the election campaign, Nawaz Sharif (NS) and his daughter Maryam kept the political temperature high by blaming the judiciary, NAB and the Establishment of pre-poll rigging and systematic demolition of PML-N aimed at giving a free run to PTI to win the elections. It was alleged that selective accountability, manipulation and coercion impelled 61 MNAs belonging to the ruling party to desert. They further alleged that BAP, PSP, GDA, and Jeep were the creations of Establishment to castrate PML-N.
After his disqualification by a 5-member Supreme Court Bench on July 28, 2017, NS was unseated from his seat of party head and then sentenced to 10-year imprisonment in a corruption reference by trial court concerning purchase of Avenfield apartments in London. Maryam was also awarded 7-year sentence and both are in Adiala jail. Several leading lights of PML-N were disqualified or punished by Election Commission (EC), judiciary and NAB. Over 16000 party workers were arrested in Lahore, and NAB has remained mainly focused on Punjab including Shahbaz. Guns of media also remained trained toward PML-N till last May. All these acts gave reasons to the leaders of PML-N to crib that a willful plan had been unleashed to emasculate the party. In their view, election-day rigging surpassed pre-poll rigging.
While the EC had promised to provide details of election results by 2 a.m. on the morning of 26 July, till 3 a.m. not a single result came out. Undue delay further heightened their anxieties.
Counting process continued throughout the day and 95% results were announced by media channels during the night of 26th July. Some results are still
PTI is well ahead and has won the race with 122 National Assembly seats, followed by PML-N with 63 seats, PPP with 43 seats. Independents won 18 seats, while tally of MMA is 13 seats. MQM-P got 6, PML-Q got 4, GDA 4, PML-Q 3, JUI-F one, PFP one, MQM-H one, AML one, and TLP one, BNP-A one, and BAP one seat.
At the provincial level, in Sindh, PPP is in the lead with 75 seats followed by PTI with 22 seats, GDA 14, MQM-P 14 seats, PML-N 4, TLP 3 seats, MMA 3 seat, and MQM-H one.
In KP, PTI with 57 seats in its bag will easily form a govt. MMA got 7 seats, ANP 5 seats, PML-N 4, PPP 4, QWP 1, TLP one and independents 5.
In Baluchistan, BAP got 14 seats, MMA 10 seats and BNP 9 seats.
Toughest contest was in Punjab where PML-N secured 131 seats followed by PTI acquiring 124 seats.
Several heavy weights such as SS, Khaqan Abbasi, Ch Nisar, Yusaf Raza Gilani, Asfand Wali, Bilour, Shahi Sayed, Mustafa Kamal, Farooq Sattar, Saad Rafique, Amir Muqam, Yasmin Rashid, Ashiq Firdous, Talal, Danyal, Abid Sher Ali, Ch Tariq, Jamshed Dasti, Tehmina Daultana were put out of the race.
Most closely fought contests were between Khwaja Asif and Dar, and Imran Khan (IK) versus Saad Rafique. IK made history by contesting from five constituencies and winning all.
Well done to the runner up PML-N, and heartiest congratulations to the winning party PTI. IK’s 22-year political struggle and his dream of becoming the PM of Pakistan has at last been fulfilled.
Thanks to the Caretakers and the Chief Justice for standing up to their pledges to hold timely and fair elections despite the pessimism of the naysayers. Hats off to the security forces, particularly the Army for undertaking this thankless job. Five soldiers performing election duties were martyred yesterday. People showered petals and presented flower bouquets to the men on duty to express their affections. It was nice to see security officials helping the aged.
TV channels did their job of reporting and keeping the viewers updated about the polling process and ups and downs in the unfolding election results throughout the night and even now proficiently. Surprisingly, Indian TV channels were equally enthusiastic in giving details of the vote count and also painting IK in poor light.
The voters also deserve accolades for going to the polling stations to cast their votes in spite of hot and humid weather, security threats and waiting for their turn in long queues for hours. At some places, process of voting was slow.
Few unfortunate incidents of terrorism, particularly in Quetta and lawlessness were deplorable but those incidents didn’t mar the enthusiasm of voters.
NS’s policy of defiance against the Establishment and the judiciary, his effort to promote his development agenda and to garner sympathy vote failed to earn victory for PML-N.
IK’s slogan of corruption by the PML-N and PPP leaders, his pledge to bring back the looted money stashed in foreign banks and to make New Pakistan appealed to the senses of the people and he emerged victorious.
Surprisingly, most top electables of PML-N tumbled while the PTI’s electables including the defectors won. IK’s charisma worked and so did the magic spell of Peerni.
Despite the unceremonious ouster of NS, judicial activism poised against PML-N and mass desertions, PML-N was somehow confident to win in the Centre as well as in Punjab because of its 5-year performance. Had it restricted its tirade against the PTI, judiciary and NAB, and avoided censuring the Army, it could have avoided cooking its goose. People didn’t like criticism of army, which is held in their highest esteem due to sacrifices rendered in the war on terror.
SS’s policy of conciliation as opposed to offensive posture of NS and Maryam, and his inability to arrange a rousing reception for NS at Lahore airport on July 13th smothered the flare-up of protests by the Leaguers, thereby putting no pressure on the caretakers to relent and grant concessions. He did little to bolster the simmering sympathy wave among the people of Punjab when NS and Maryam were interned. That is why he lost on all his seats.
Malicious propaganda campaign launched by PML-N media cell and international media, coupled with Gulalai and Reham Khan’s character assassination drive against IK to dishonor him failed to lessen his popularity.
Spectacular results achieved by PTI catapulted the party from 3rd position in 2013 to leading party and stunned its opponents and also took the PTI by surprise. Results cast aside the widely held prophesy of the analysts of a hung parliament.
PTI is in a position to form federal govt by mustering support of the independents and smaller parties; KP govt without the crutches of others; a coalition govt in Punjab, and lead a strong opposition in Sindh.
PTI emerged as the leading winning party in KP where it was generally opined that MMA, PML-N and ANP will give a tough fight and might form a govt. It is for the first time that people reposed trust confidence in one party for the second time consecutively. PTI is close to securing two-thirds majority (86 seats) with the help of 16 women reserved seats. If so, it will be first time in KP.
PML-N that had retained its unassailable hold over Lahore fortress was for the first time breached by four contestants of PTI. Rest of 10 seats were retained by PML-N.
Although PML-N has a narrow edge over PTI in Punjab, the PTI can form a govt with the help of independents, PML-Q, AML, and BAP.