From revolution to evolution

Spearhead Analysis – 07.05.2015

By Saman Tariq
Research Analyst,
Spearhead Research

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf appears to be rather jubilant at the current turn of events. The decision of election tribunal to order re-polling on the seat won by Saad Rafique is being termed as PTI’s victory as it legitimizes to a certain degree the questions raised by PTI concerning the transparency of general elections 2013. Imran Khan in an attempt to validate the earlier revolution politics declared the election tribunal’s decision regarding NA-125 a result of party’s 126-day dharna.  However, the fact remains that election tribunals were formed as early as May 13, 2013 and were made functional almost after three weeks to adjudicate poll disputes across the country.

The sit-ins resulted in nothing more than formation of a judicial commission which according to some legal experts is a pointless exercise; the judicial commission cannot take the place of an election tribunal. Babar Sattar further reinstates that “Article 225 identifies the manner and mode in which elections can be brought into question: through an election petition presented to an election tribunal as prescribed in the Representation of Peoples Act, 1976. Thus, without amending Article 225 and/or the 1976 Act, election results can’t be “called in question” by any commission.”

It appears that a judicial commission therefore cannot oust a Prime Minister, neither could a crowd gathered by PTI in the heart of the capital. The decision to resign from the National Assembly proved as futile as the exercise of civil disobedience. Ironically, what ultimately provided some amount of respite to the party was an institutionalized channel, the election tribunal PTI chief seemed to have no faith in. There is no denying the fact that it took a long time for the tribunal to reach a conclusion; speedy justice is simply not Pakistan’s forte.

Nevertheless, both parties have come a long way from the months’ long political deadlock. It is a positive development that both parties have eventually returned to evolutionary politics, fighting their battles through institutions. Although uncertainty looms over PTI’s future in NA-125 in case of a re-election; particularly keeping the cantonment election results in mind, the risk is worth taking. The party has never been able to believe the margin of Saad Rafique’s victory, and any indication towards irregularity even if not rigging is enough for the party to bank on. Hamid Khan’s victory in re-election would certainly validate all other claims made by PTI particularly in NA-122, the constituency of Ayaz Sadiq and Imran Khan.

PML (N) on the other hand has decided to take the expected route and challenge the decision of the tribunal in Supreme Court. It would have been a mature political move on the part of PML (N) to go for a re-election in NA-125. Re-winning the disputed seat could demonstrate PML (N)’s popularity over PTI, discrediting rigging allegations made by the latter and enhancing PML (N)’s credibility. The results of cantonment elections point towards a favorable tilt towards PML (N) and according to Khuwaja Asif, 90 percent area of NA-125 falls in cantonment. Under such favoring odds, PML (N)’s hesitance naturally raises questions over the fairness of Saad Rafique’s victory in general elections 2013.  PML (N) unfortunately not known for mature politics has decided to take legal shelter to further delay the outcome rather than entering the political and electoral arena.

One can hope that election tribunal’s decision marks a shift from revolutionary styled politics of PTI- resorting to sit-ins and other shenanigans to a more sustainable process, contributing to the changing political environment overall. PML (N) should also consider the merits of a re-election in NA-125 and respect the mandate of the people for the second time. Besides, the political class should push for electoral as well as legal reforms to ensure greater transparency and efficiency.  Envision a real Naya Pakistan where there is a fully functional political system based on democracy and accountability. The idea of radical change is very alluring but rather than revolution, evolution of institutions is indispensable in the long run.