What really happened on May 11? – Farrukh Khan Pitafi


This is a cross-blog post taken from Express Tribune. The writer hosts a show called “Capital Circuit” for News One and tweets @FarrukhKPitafi

May 11, 2013, left behind a watershed moment. It was the day when we witnessed the triumph of hope over fear. Defying the omnipresent threat of terrorist assault, Pakistanis came out in hordes and voted for change. It sounds really stupid but before this day, we never had civilian to civilian transition through democratic means. And yet, there is a significant part of our elite that is bent on delegitimising and discrediting the democratic process by shoving whatever passes as evidence of rigging in our face. And this leads us to a host of questions.

First, if there was widespread rigging, who was cheated out of victory? Was it the PTI or the incumbent PPP? You can fairly rule out the PPP because of its abysmal five-year performance and lack of proper election campaigning. That leaves us with the PTI. To ascertain if the PTI’s mandate was really stolen, let us see what was being projected before and on the Election Day. The Economist had already hinted that the PML-N seemed in clear lead. With a number of caveats, Gallup Pakistan had predicted that the PML-N would not only win but get a clear majority.

If you recall my piece “Towards a true democracy” that appeared on the Election Day, I had made two predictions and given one pointer. I wrote: “I see a huge turnout despite all odds. But contrary to general expectations, this voter surge will not benefit a single party… Secondly, I don’t foresee a hung parliament. With the help of pre-poll alliances, the front runner, I believe, will be able to conveniently form the government.” And the pointer was my own vote. I had pointed out that since it had come down to a choice between two conservative parties namely the PML-N and the PTI, I had decided to go for the former.

On that day, I had with me a meticulously prepared list showing the PML-N bagging 111 seats. This list was prepared with a conservative approach and the PPP and the ANP were shown doing slightly better. And yet, there was so much noise around us that I had to endure reluctance while mentioning this conservative estimate in our election transmission.

But if the verdict was that clear that it was visible to the naked eye, was there no rigging at all? Of course not. There was rigging and has always been there. Remember that three majors parts of the country are seriously troubled, namely; Fata, Balochistan and Karachi. Given the situation of law and order there, you cannot rule out the possibility of huge manipulation. But that’s a given and you cannot magnify it beyond proportion. With the passage of time, the situation will improve. And in the case of Karachi, even the protesting parties are to blame. In 2008, through our columns, people like me begged the PTI not to boycott the elections for it was being viewed as a serious contender. But Imran Khan, in his infinite wisdom, does not listen to anybody and hence, is partially responsible for what is happening in Karachi.

But if rigging was not that widespread, why are so many anchors and politicians making so much noise about it. The answer is that on May 11, unfounded expectations of some parties bloated beyond imagination dashed to the ground. A huge part of the elite was mobilised by the PTI, the kind whose voice is heard internationally. But this class mistook their support for the entire nation’s. On my polling station, I witnessed very vocal PTI voters who were quizzing the silent majority. If you revealed that you were not going to vote for their party, they would argue with you ad nauseam. And many ended up lying about their choices. As for anchors, I know there are some conscientious people too but many of our friends simply didn’t want the PML-N to win for one reason or another. When it did, they moved in to discredit the process. With time and due process, all anomalies and attitudes will be corrected. But the truth is that this day marked a huge transformation and we are a democracy today. We need to deal with it.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 25th, 2013.