Did Imran Khan lie about the 2013 elections being rigged?

Published: October 13, 2015

Those analysts who are calling it a close fight, and in fact some sort of ‘victory’ of PTI are missing this very significant point.

Apparently it was a close fight and PTI has actually done well. In by-elections, the incumbents have an inherent advantage and it was also a seat which traditionally PML-N has always won. Yes, in case it had been a normal by-election then PTI has actually exceeded expectations.

Only, that it was an extraordinary by-election and therefore the eventual analysis has to consider this fact. The entire narrative of PTI with respect to rigging in 2013 was basically based on four seats, out of which NA-122 was the most significant, because here the PTI chief had himself lost.

It was here that the stakes were the highest and PTI had to prove their tall claims that in 2013, Ayaz Sadiq had won due to the so called 45,000 bogus votes.

If the claim was true, then Sadiq had to actually cover the ‘deficit’ this time, due to the absence of the bogus votes and perform extraordinarily to actually win. The narrow margin of victory actually becomes extremely huge, when examined in the light of PTI’s claims about rigging in 2013.

Those analysts who are calling it a close fight, and in fact some sort of ‘victory’ of PTI, are missing this very significant point.

So the PML-N win is actually humiliating for PTI, particularly if two plausible alternative scenarios are considered. First scenario: There was no rigging in 2013 and for two and half years, Imran had constantly lied and sold a flawed narrative to our gullible urban middle class. Second scenario: In reality, PML-N is doing pretty well and consequently even if Sadiq had won due to rigging, PML-N has done enough to capture the imagination of voters in that constituency.

It is obvious that both scenarios are completely unacceptable to PTI and hence they are going to allege what they have always alleged, that this time too it was rigged. However, the big difference is that many are not buying this now.

No sane person is going to believe these allegations anymore and it is better for Imran and his legion of impressionable abusive supporters to come to their senses. Politics is a long, hard and continuous struggle and one has to show maturity and courage to accept results and move forward. One has to understand that one defeat does not mean that you have completely lost.

PTI has to now discard the narrative that 2013 elections had been completely rigged.

In fact, the entire narrative is seriously flawed because NO survey or opinion poll (including Gallup and IRI) had predicted that PTI would win. All of them had predicted that PML-N would easily win. Yes, PTI had bigger rallies which were covered extensively by the media, but bigger rallies do not necessarily translate into larger vote share.

The election results merely confirmed the predictions of several opinion polls. Subsequently, the Judicial Commission, which was formed on Imran’s own demands, also decided against PTI. And now people of NA-122 also seem to disagree with the rigging narrative. Yes, PTI won a moral victory of sorts when the election tribunal had ordered re-polling, but they had to win this seat in order to back their claim that 2013 elections had been massively rigged.

Yet despite this, there is a silver lining for PTI. There is absolutely no doubt that PTI is the second most popular party in Pakistan. It needs to win Punjab and for that it needs to expand beyond its core base of the white collar urban middle class. However, to really win, it has to reconsider the way its supporters deal with masses.

One of the major problems with the PTI’s core support base of white collar urban middle class is their way of looking with disgust at ordinary people. For years, I have been hearing words like “jahil awam” (illiterate public), “ganday log” (bad people) and “khotays” (donkeys) in private conversations from PTI supporters. In fact, as the results started to pour in showing that Sadiq was leading, the immediate reaction of PTI was that ordinary Lahoris were clueless as they ate donkey meat and also elected donkeys.

Of course, now once again they have started to cry about rigging following the rants of their chief, but their basic way of looking at the masses remains questionable.

Politics is ultimately about engagement and only by giving ordinary people proper respect do you enhance your appeal.  And proper respect means listening to what they consider as important. Yes, corruption and sovereignty are important but for people who belong to different demographics these may not be the most important factor. There is a world outside DHA and it thinks very differently, a fact that always escapes many of the PTI urban middle class supporters.

But above all, PTI has to show performance in K-P and deliver. Only when people see how well they have managed that province, will they actually consider PTI as an alternative on a larger scale.

It is time for PTI to show maturity.


Raza Habib Raja

The author is a recent Cornell graduate and currently pursuing his PhD in political science at Maxwell School, Syracuse University. He has also worked for a leading development finance institution in Pakistan. He is a freelance journalist whose works have been published at Huffington Post, Dawn (Pakistan), Express Tribune (Pakistan) and Pak Tea House. He tweets @razaraja (twitter.com/razaraja?lang=en)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Ch. Allah Daad

    Voters of Lahore have saved Pakistan from further anarchy and perhaps civil war. The anarchists dream to win this seat and start long march, dharna, anarchy, civil disobedience once again. Their dreams have been shattered and faces are blackened forever. They are giving excuses after excuses but their masters will not spare them this time. Thanks to people of Lahore.Recommend

  • PakPatriot

    Of course…!!Recommend

  • JB

    I have just one question for the author…if ‘performance’ is what gets people elected, do you sincerely and honestly believe that PMLN’s two previous rules were enough to get re-elected? Or for PPP to get re-elected for the second time? Of course not. Pakistanis have short term memories. They suddenly forget what was promised two days before the election (Dragging Zardari through the streets of Lahore comes to mind!).
    The only thing which works is manipulation and money. You can hate on IK and PTI all you want, but there is no denying the fact that when your PM has NAB cases against him, accused of numerous corruption scandals, has a history of going against his promises; there is something fishy. Unfortunately, most voters are from rural areas and you can buy them vote if it means feeding them for the day.Recommend

  • Braveheart

    Actually its not his fault, All baby cry when come to this world, but khan sb case was different he was saying rigging rigging rigging…..Recommend

  • http://batman-news.com Dr. Abid Shah Mashwani

    Mr. Raja nice attempt to win legitimacy for 2013 election but no sane person will buy your flawed argument. First, in 2013 PMLN (Ayaz Sadiq) was not an incumbent speaker. Second, in 2013 elections were not under Showbaz Sharif administrative powers (actually they were which is the rigging point as Najam Sethi admitted administration started to report to Raiwand long before election day). Third, PMLN didn’t campaign with 12 Federal Ministers and full cabinet of Punjab government. Fourth, PMLN didn’t have people of Pakistan money to launch last minute so called developmental project include multi billion agriculture package, orange train. Fifth, PMLN didn’t have chair of the Benazir Income Support program distributing checks before election in the constitutiency. Six, PMLN didn’t have a sitting federal minister of railway going into railway colonies and announcing packages. Seven, PMLN didn’t have local government operative on their disposal to remove opponents banners. Eight, PMLN didn’t have this much influence on Election Commission to change electoral lists. List can go on and on.

    Now look at simple three facts: 1) Ayaz Sadiq was not contesting against Imran Khan, rather in PMLN words, was contesting against a corrupt person, 2) PMLN used all resources, including shifting some voters of PMLN from other constituencies of Lahore and still manage 18,000 less votes than 2013; 3) This is probably the only constituency in whole Pakistan where both MPA seats are won by opposition (actually, PTI votes went up in PP-147 by 2,000 as compared to 2013, and PMLN votes went down by 8,000).

    Now if you take into account all these then on what grounds you can say 2013 was not rigged. Actually, you can say this election was slightly improved than 2013, since all media was watching and Army was deployed at polling stations.Recommend

  • footyfan

    yeah right!Recommend

  • RHR

    I know it hurts. Can you explain that why NO survey/opinion poll before election of 2013 was predicting that PTI would win?
    Moreover, your party’s narrative was that Ayaz had 45,000 bogus votes. If PML (N) had his ministers, you people were also organized and please you had a point to prove.
    You could not do it. All this proves that the story of 45,000 bogus votes was nonsense.

    Learn some humility at leastRecommend

  • Pro Truth

    No these election prove PTI stance, 2013 elections were rigged indeed! Lets see how long they can keep covering it up with shear government and mafia grip! in a fair election PTI will cruise to victory against PMLN!
    by-elections are not level playing field with hideous tactics and government influence plus public funds used. Government ministers normally are not allowed to run campaigns but we saw even Prime Ministers breaking campaign law!Recommend

  • Pro Truth

    argue with sane arguments!Recommend

  • Waseem Sarwar

    good analysis. I can’t understand when Pervaiz Rasheed claims that NA122, narrow victory despite everything you mentioned, is a sign of trust then what does PP147 states? According to his logic (he doesn’t usually speak with any kind of logic) that people trust Nawaz Sharif but don’t trust Showbaz?Recommend

  • Waseem Sarwar

    Care to thank people of PP147 and PP148? :p They also live in Lahore, infect same constituency.Recommend

  • H Ch

    Yes he did Lie.Recommend

  • H Ch

    Good to see you here Chaudhry Sahab. Love your comments. Totally agree.Recommend

  • Pakistani

    Much needed article. Imran Khan is crazed by his ambition to become the Prime Minister, and his behaviour for the last 2,1/2 years has proven it over and over again. And I completely agree about the urban middle class being disparaging of Pakistanis less advantaged than them, who by the way constitute a much larger number of voters and cannot be ignored. Considering Khan’s abnormal behaviour and questionable tactics, not to mention a talent for talking utter trash while campaigning, the “jahil” awam have proven wiser than their highly educated urban compatriots for not choosing him to be the Prime Minister. Food for thought.Recommend

  • Pakistani

    And a heartfelt thank you to the people of Lahore for putting a full stop to this madness. Hopefully now he will stop talking and go serve the people who actually voted for him in KPK.Recommend

  • Parvez

    In my view the re-election in NA 122 was not won by the PML-N ……it was lost by the PTI. Recommend

  • Malveros

    Dhandli Propaganda has been buried forever. Good Decision by Voters of Lahore.Recommend

  • regular

    Stint at Cornell and you did not learn reasoning. Sir, with respect, official results are not out yet. You could hold your horses for a while. But, anyway, provincial seat for PTI and national for PMLN. Its ok to hate PTI, and its uncouth staunch followers, but losing grip on logic is sad. btw, those who voted for PTI in by-election had nothing to do with DHA. Stop painting everyone with the same brush.Recommend

  • Wanderer

    If NA 122 narrow win by Ayaz, after an unprecedented & mammoth effort by both federal and provincial governments, proves that 2013 were not rigged, then what does PTI win in PP 147 prove?

    Also, what about sampling? It was just one constituency and the situation was totally different compared to 2013, not to mention that IK did not contest it.

    Amazing logic from a Phd student.Recommend

  • Wanderer

    IK lied, election tribunals’ verdicts lied, all parties that went to JC lied. Come on man. What gives?Recommend

  • Jayman

    Even on the cricket field Imran Khan was an aloof and distant leader who was driven by private ambitions. But he was one heck of a talent and he had a great team. In politics, he has neither of those two. He was hoping that the umpire will somehow make him win. He was a rich kid who hadn’t seen too many failures and he could not accept that he failed to become the PM.Recommend

  • Reality Check

    This is a pretty spot on analysis based in reality and i agree with all the points that you have made and I also agree its time to move on. No one like a sore loser, and we as a nation do not have the time or the energy to deal with this rigging nonsense. Ayaz Sadiq actually did a Hat trick on PTI IK in 02 IK in 13 and AK in 15 he also won in 08. The stats speak for themselves.Recommend

  • Imran K

    Good thing this half-baked fallacious drivel is published under blogs because no sane person can take it seriously.Recommend

  • OSD

    Imran Khan has been lying about a lot of things and not just the legitimacy of the elections.. Would the good folks who so ferociously defend him, care to ponder about the 35 puncture claim? When the moment came, he coyly dismissed it as a political attack? In the judicial inquiry, the PTI suspiciously tried to change the terms of reference from planned rigging (their main claim) to simply focusing on election irregularities. Was that not a shocking reversal?Recommend

  • JB

    Not as shocking as changing stance with Zardari…but ofcourse PMLN people tend to forget this kind of stuff…still waiting for Zardari to be brought to justice and ‘dragged on the streets of Lahore’…Recommend

  • OSD

    Standing applause for your comment Ch sb.. You actually summed it up in a better than the article itself.. The enemies of Pakistan were ready to pounce if it weren’t for their defeat in NA-122..Recommend

  • RHR

    There is no “amazing” logic. The PTI claim was that in 2013 there was “massive” rigging to the tune of 45,000 votes. Back then also Ayaz had actually won narrowly and this time also narrowly.
    This close election merely proves that this seat has sizable PML (N) as well as PTI vote bank and election both of the times was close.
    It does not prove the PTI claim that 45,000 bogus votes were cast in 2013
    I understand for PTI people reality is difficult to digestRecommend

  • pervaiz nasir

    yes, IK is telling lieRecommend

  • OSd

    Ooo.. And to think that Imran Khan has never changed his stance on anything? Btw.. With cases against Mr Gilani, Mr Amin Fahim and the lot, it is safe to say that the PPP is being made to answer for their actions. We can not do it French revolution style my friend. This is how it is done. You break the leader’s power by going after his underlings. Let the world know that he cannot protect his minions and his power is finished. This is how you drag a leader through the streets in modern times.Recommend

  • Muhammad Imran Malik

    Excellent analysis, still nothing can convince highly educated, sophisticated, and most sensible supporters of great great PTI.Recommend

  • Ch. Allah Daad

    PTI’s victory in PP147 and PP148 proves elections were not rigged. Nation has been saved from further disaster. Fake revolutionary thug was about to board plane to join Imran Khan but great people of Lahore have spoiled their dreams.Recommend

  • pervaiz nasir

    Once a lier will always be a liar, no matter he wins election or defeatedRecommend

  • H Ch

    You are entitle to your opinion. The fact is that PMLN won in 2002, 2008, 2013 and now in 2014. Sitting Govt is under tremendous pressure for two years so simply holding the seat is good enough for now. When the stage will be set for General elections you will see how PMLN flexes its political muscle built up on projects. Wait and see. Also remember what happened in Okara, PMLN vs. PMLN. PTI lost its zamanat. In 2018 the losing candidate will be given provincial and winner who is a PMLNer NA seat.Recommend

  • Arsalan ur Rub

    I’ve been IK’s campaigner and voter for 2013 elections and i feel as a new party PTI and IK achieved extraordinary results and support in 2013 elections. Majority party in one province and 2nd largest vote bank are enough reasons to celebrate and move forward for further success in times to come.
    But the problem is that IK took this as loosing elections and started the tenure with a “looser” mindset which by the time increpted into all party hierarchy and workers. Now due to this problem, they cant talk of anything else but rigging and not able to highlight and enjoy their success.
    Not accepting any unfavorable results, more than required and exaggerated criticism of political opponents, not letting system to work, dharna, excessive agitation to the extent harming the country are all signs of looser mindset.
    This behavior is now being questioned by the people like this writer who challenge irrational behavior no matter if its coming from their favorite political leader.
    IK and PTI are assets for Pakistan. We’ll not be able to produce another such leader and party for next 50 years, but this doesn’t mean that we tolerate nonsense on the name of politics.
    IK please wake up. You and your party has achieved unprecedented political results. Believe on this, focus on KPK and target next elections.Recommend

  • Wanderer

    Yes. 45,000 votes were not bogus. You just could not tell whether they were authentic. Whatever does the trick for you.

    And the tribunal ordered repoll because the judge had a land dispute with Rana Sana. Also, all the irregularities, malpractices and mismanagement were done by polling staff for sawab, not to favor Ayaz.Recommend

  • Nouman Ahmed

    Lahore is not a rural area, is it? Having cases, accusations does not mean anything until unless a person is proven guilty.Recommend

  • Nouman Ahmed

    PTI knew that ministers are taking part in campaign before the election day but still they said that they will accept the results. Now why PTI is rubbing thay accusation in face? Have some grace and accept the defeat.Recommend

  • Dr. Asadi

    It is amazing how this author tried to compare the election rigging 2013 to an election held under a different administration where a stronger candidate is competing not against Imran Khan but a weaker candidate and even there the margin is extremely narrow. Raza Habib Raja has a pro US agenda for which he disses Pakistan and all those who go against that agenda, that is what his “beef” is with Imran Khan. Also RHR has been supporting American drone killings in PakistanRecommend

  • UW

    Mr. Raja if you have lived in US than what have you learned so far? Is this the way elections are held in USA? Have you seen election 2013 from your eyes? Do you know who were returning officers and why election results were delayed? Do you know presiding officers were appointed on the day of election and frequent appointments changed? Do you know punjab police got changed before election was started and was delayed until new police was brought in? Did you realize form 14 was missing in majority of the bags?
    Before writing some thing for the public please try to do some research and compare how things are done in civilized world and are they in line with what you are writing?
    NS govt is weak and this is his third term. He failed to finish his 2 terms and this is at the verge of collapse. There is practical martial law in Pakistan.
    Try to suggest NS to come with people power, have legit mandate and power of people behind, so that John Kerry won’t say Nawaz and Joe biden won’t squeeze your neck.
    An FYI: Raheel Sharif won’t be created if there is people power behind a leader.Recommend