Islamabad: In a huge relief for Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, a high-level probe by the Supreme Court today absolved his party of allegedly rigging the 2013 general election which the PML-N won by a landslide. The judicial commission constituted to investigate claims of rigging by the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), concluded that the polls “were in large part organised and conducted fairly and in accordance with the law”.
The commission said in its report that “despite some lapses by the Election Commission it cannot be said on the evidence before the (judicial) commission that on the overall basis the elections were not a true and fair reflection of the mandate given by the electorate,” the Express News reported.
The probe was launched in April after a deal between the government and the PTI led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan who had spearheaded violent protests over alleged fraud in the election that brought Sharif to power for an unprecedented third term as prime minister.
The PML-N won 129 of the 272 seats in the National Assembly while PTI won only 35. PTI chief Khan said he accepted the verdict of the commission but would comment only after seeing the report. Khan, who for the first time won about three dozen seats in the national assembly in the 2013 election, had alleged after the polls that he was robbed of several seats due to organised rigging.
The three-judge team led by chief justice Nasir-ul-Mulk completed its probe earlier this month and last night sent its nearly 300-page report to the government. “The probe ruled out any chance of fraud, but the nation is still suffering from the sit-in and protests by those who alleged rigging in the elections,” Sharif’s younger brother and Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif said. The prime minister held a meeting with senior aides and party leaders over the reports and it was decided that he would address the nation this evening to share the findings.
Local media reported that the premier will address the nation at 7.00 pm. The report is a moral victory for Sharif and is expected to strengthen his government.
It was decided in the agreement between the government and the PTI that Sharif would resign and order fresh polls if systematic rigging was proved in the probe. Khan had first demanded the government hold an independent inquiry and in August, 2014 launched his protest campaign.
With thousands of supporters, he organised a sit-in in front of parliament here which went on for about four months. The protests ended after Khan struck a deal with the government for a probe by judges of the Supreme Court. Government officials say the national economy suffered losses of billions of rupees due to the protests.