Election 2024, Revenge and retribution

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By: Qamar Bashir

Press Secretary to the President(Rtd), Former Press Minister at Embassy of Pakistan to France, Former MD, SRBC

On election day, a multifaceted portrayal emerges from both social and traditional media, heralding the peaceful conclusion of the voting process. Despite efforts from all political parties, including state machinery, to diminish PTI’s influence, they misread the pulse of Pakistani voters. The dynamics of voting were reshaped by factors such as the influx of young and women voters, increased digital literacy and penetration, and the pervasive influence of social media platforms like WhatsApp. These elements were pivotal in this election, unlike in previous ones, marking a new era of voter empowerment in Pakistani politics.

While the state favored PML(N), the tactics employed by the state were thwarted by voters’ resentment over the heavy-handed crackdown on PTI leadership and supporters. Through their ballots, voters triumphed over planned irregularities, intimidation tactics, and pre-election rigging, underscoring a collective rejection of state interference.

The high voter turnout exemplified heightened public engagement and a desire for change. Overall, the prevailing mood among voters was one of seeking retribution for perceived injustices and asserting their autonomy in the electoral process.

The internet and mobile services were terminated throughout the day. Which were criticized by PPP and PTI criticized it, alleging an attempt to suppress voter turnout and manipulate the outcome. This move sparked debates in traditional and social media, condemning it for impeding citizens’ rights and hindering transparency in the electoral process.

The services were partially restored after 6 pm but were again slowed down between 9 pm and 12 midnight, slowdowning in the reporting of election results. This disruption occurred at a critical juncture, coinciding with the unexpected strong performance of PTI and PPP representatives, and the underwhelming showing of PML(N).

Returning offices cited server downtimes and technical difficulties as reasons for the delay, yet failed to provide clear explanations or confirm results compiled by presiding officers. The Election Commission intervened, instructing returning officers not to compile or issue results independently, but to forward them to the Commission for announcement, if deemed appropriate. The slow down of mobile services lead to rumors that since the PTI is winning in most of the seats, therefore, the state might stepin to help its favorite party.

Despite widespread complaints from political parties about the prolonged delay, PML(N) remained conspicuously silent on the matter. Media outlets were abuzz with discussions on the implications of these delays, with many speculating about potential foul play or deliberate obstruction. The prolonged uncertainty fueled deep frustration among voters and raised doubts about the transparency and integrity of the electoral process. Calls for accountability and transparency are echoing across traditional and social media channels, with demands for swift action to address the delays and ensure the timely release of accurate results. The slow pace of result announcements cast a shadow of uncertainty over the election outcome, heightening tensions and underscoring the need for urgent measures to restore public confidence in the electoral process.

At midnight, despite the slowdown in reporting, notable developments emerged in various constituencies across Pakistan. ShoibShaheen in Islamabad secured a comfortable lead in PS 27, while Taj Mohammad of PTI surged ahead against the JUI candidate. Palarosan of PPP emerged victorious in Khairpur, while Ali Amin secured a commanding lead over MaulanaFazalurRehman. However, Jehangir Tareen of IPP faced defeat in both seats. Fazal Mohammad of PTI was also in the lead, and UmerAyub clinched victory in 18 Haripur with a significant margin against PML(N). AsadQaiser of PTI emerged victorious over the JUI-F candidate with a substantial lead, and Mr. Zubair Khan of PTI secured a win in Battagram PK 34 against a JUI-F candidate. Meanwhile, Nawaz Sharif appeared to be leading with a clear majority.

At 12:30 am, these results prompted a sense of quiet unease in the PML(N) media center, where Nawaz Sharif was scheduled to deliver a victory speech. Journalists, who had been prepared for the event, were informed accordingly. However, a tweet from state representatives suggested optimism for PML(N) in Balochistan constituencies. Despite this, the dismal results in Punjab and KP provinces shifted discussions on TV channels toward the possibility of a PPP and PTI coalition government.

At around 2.30 am the Election Commission officially rebuked TV channels for disseminating inaccurate election results, asserting its sole authority in compiling and accepting final results.

Mr. Rauf Hassan, the PTI spokesperson, in an interview at 2:23 am, claimed that PTI has secured over 130 seats in the National Assembly and has dominated the KP province. Despite PTI’s apparent success, concerns arise over the election process’s slowdown and fears of potential rigging in favor of PML(N).

At 12:37 am in Karachi, Khalid Maqbool Siddique of MQM Haqparast confidently claimed victory in 18 to 19 out of 21 seats, breaking all previous records. He pledged to serve all citizens of Karachi, regardless of gender, race, or ethnicity.  Mr. Faisal Wadha while commenting said everything was normal. The election server is once again down, and will be down again in Election. He said that PTI independent will be on sale and will be bought by those parties who will offer them better terms and conditions and rest loyal supporters will sit in the opposition. He said that the result was fully expected and suited the establishment. According to him it was a plan to stage a win by the independents and then, make a weak coalition government.  While reacting to a question that the unexpected performance of the PTI was a sympathy factor which was mainly triggered due to illogical and senseless courts verdicts against the PTI chairman and his wife.

Asif Ali Zardari expressed satisfaction with the incoming results and congratulated Bilawal Bhutto on the outstanding performance, asserting that the next government would be formed by the PPP. Meanwhile, TV commentators, who had previously speculated on a strong PML(N) victory and discussed the potential oath-taking of Nawaz Sharif as Prime Minister and Maryam Nawaz as Chief Minister of Punjab, shifted their focus. They now deliberated on the likelihood of a PPP and PTI coalition government at the center, advising PML(N) to gracefully accept defeat and assume the role of the opposition.

Allegations have surfaced suggesting that the Election Commission may have intervened to alter results, particularly due to PTI’s lead in many constituencies. At 2:30 pm, notable snapshots of election results revealed Dr. Yasmeen Rashid leading over Nawaz Sharif in Lahore, while Nawaz Sharif trailed behind Gustasib Khan in Mansehra. Amin Gandpure maintained a substantial lead over MaulanaFazalurRehman, and Atta Tarar trailed behind Bilawal Bhutto. PTI’s Qaiser secured a significant lead, as did Zartaj Gul, AminpurGandapur, and Salman Akram Raja. Rehana Dar emerged victorious over Khawaja Asif in Sialkot, while Barrister Gohar Ali led by a wide margin. Shaukat Basra of PTI also held a lead over PML(N), while Mir Muqaam faced a significant defeat. Notably, Nafisa Shah and SarfrazBugti of PPP secured clear victories, and PTI claimed victory in Nankana Sahib, with MianJavaid Latif, a PML(N) stalwart, suffering a substantial loss.

Earlier, the Human Rights Commission expressed concern regarding the termination of internet and mobile services in the lead-up to the elections. Local and international observers have provided observations on the conduct of the elections thus far. Local observers have noted issues such as irregularities, voter intimidation, and violence in certain areas, raising concerns about transparency and fairness. Similarly, international observers have emphasized the importance of free and fair elections, calling for impartiality, transparency, and adherence to electoral laws. They stress the need for accountability and transparency to ensure public confidence in the electoral process. Both local and international observers continue to monitor closely and provide assessments to uphold democratic standards.

As the tumultuous events of the 2024 elections in Pakistan unfold, a narrative emerges of resilience and determination amidst adversity. Despite challenges ranging from disruptions in communication to incidents of violence and intimidation, the Pakistani electorate has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to democracy. The power of the vote has prevailed over attempts to manipulate and suppress it, as voters have asserted their agency and sought to shape the future of their nation. As the dust settles and the results begin to take shape, it is clear that the path forward will be marked by continued vigilance, accountability, and a steadfast dedication to upholding democratic principles. In the face of uncertainty, Pakistan stands poised to embrace its democratic destiny, guided by the collective will of its people and the promise of a brighter tomorrow.

Qamar Bashir

Press Secretary to the President (Rtd), Former Press Minister at Embassy of Pakistan to France, Former MD, SRBC