Burden of proof

The PTI has asked for more time to show evidence for their rigging allegations

Burden of proof
After the judicial commission probing PTI's allegations of systematic election rigging invited political parties to their proceedings along with whatever evidence they had, 21 political parties and 46 individuals came forward. Interestingly, 20 political parties submitted evidence before the deadline. The only political party that sought more time to furnish evidence was PTI.

To many, that was absurd. The judicial commission was formed in line with the PTI's own demands, after it carried out a protest in Islamabad that went on for months, and even resigned from the assemblies to exert pressure on the government.

“Is this a joke? They are not prepared despite leveling the most bizarre allegations against us under the sky. What is this?” asked Information Minister Pervez Rashid.

PTI Chairman Imran Khan says his party will submit a complete set of proofs to the commission once the proceedings began. He claims to have enough evidence to prove that 2013 elections were massively rigged in the PML-N’s favour.

The paradoxes are blatantly evident. The PTI has returned to the assemblies, yet it strongly believes the National Assembly would be dissolved after 45 days of probe by the judicial commission. The PML-N is absolutely certain that the commission would not find a foul-play in the 2013 elections, yet it overrode a set election dispute mechanism and created a parallel system. The Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) and the Awami National Party (ANP) opposed the creation of the judicial commission, yet they both became party to the commission’s proceedings. The Pakistan People’s Party earlier announced it had accepted the election results despite reservations because it did not want to derail the democracy, yet party leader Latif Khosa argued before the commission that rigging took place in every nook and corner of the country.

Had Shakespeare seen the chameleon-like character of Pakistani politicians, he would have chosen anyone of them to replace notorious Edmund, in King Lear.

Although the PTI is not realizing it at the moment, but it will face toughest questions before by the judicial commission. For instance, the commission may ask what evidence the party had against former chief justice. The PTI leaders claimed that the chief justice had written a letter to the Returning Officers (ROs). The letter proved nothing as it only contained usual advice of performing duties with honesty and dedication. Besides, the ROs were originally the judicial officials, appointed to perform election duties in clear violation of the Judicial Policy. Interestingly, the ROs were taken from the judiciary at the strong insistence of the PTI.

When Mr Khan was summoned by the Supreme Court on contempt charges, he not only tendered apology but publicly stated that he had not questioned the honesty of either the Chief Justice (Iftikhar Chaudhry) or any other judge. He then said his only reservations were against the ROs.

In case Mr Khan drags the military establishment into the controversy – that in 2006 CJ Chaudhry had offered his help to Gen Musharraf to win the elections originally scheduled in 2007 – things would get more complicated. Even if he was telling the truth, the commission may not consider it at all. The task before the commission is to scrutinize the 2013 elections, not to examine every dubious election in the country’s history.

The PTI also advertised in major provincial newspapers inviting people to submit evidence of rigging that invited mixed reactions. “It means they don’t have anything to prove their point of view. At the container they abused their rivals without any credible information or evidence. They must apologize,” said PML-N leader Daniyal Aziz.

However, Mr Khan has already built a face-saving exit. After the formation of the judicial commission, he repeatedly stated that his party would stay in the assemblies, provided the rigging allegations are not proven. Though with his remarkable protest strategy, Mr Khan and his party earned massive popularity.

The key question is if the PTI has the moral courage to apologize to the nation for wasting precious time and resources. Mr Khan believed his Dharna educated the masses. The rivals said it had created polarization and cost the country dearly, economically and otherwise.

When Chinese President Xi Jinping shook hand with Mr Khan and Shah Mehmood Qureshi during the Parliament’s joint session, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif grabbed the opportunity to make a satire.

With a meaningful smile Sharif may have indicated that PTI leaders were responsible for the six-month delay in the Chinese President's historic visit to Pakistan. The PTI chairman contradicted the prime minister saying the Dharna ended four months ago and the honourable guest could have come earlier. President Xi just grinned and moved on.

Shahzad Raza is an Islamabad-based journalist

Twitter: @shahzadrez