The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), in an expected turn of events, has issued an official handout clarifying the ‘revelations’ of its Post-Election Review Report. It was seemingly shocked and offended that releasing such a damning report, smack in the middle of an election rigging saga, caused such a political furore. Surely the people of Pakistan viewed information objectively, in context, and never through the partisan lenses of their party affiliations. The damage having been done, what does this clarification actually achieve?

The ECP claims that the report was a “summary” of the problems faced during the elections, to which all stakeholders contributed. It aims to serve as the standard through which to improve the next elections. What this was not was a systematic investigation into rigging, or an admission of the fact that a conspiracy to rig exists, as claimed by certain political parties. The fact that the First Five Year Strategic Plan to bring election reform was launched after a similar report in 2010, and the fact that the Second Five Year Strategic Plan will be launched based on this report backs up this claim. A thorough reading of the report does indicate more incompetence than maliciousness. Petty confusion and inefficiency does not equal conspiracy. Unfortunately, everything equals conspiracy according to the PTI; this ‘clarification’ as well. Interestingly, PTI, who spent the better part of two months challenging the credibility of the ECP, greeted each word of the report, published by the same institute, like it was gospel truth. Now that it has disowned it, it has become a stooge of PML-N again. So, on the political arena, nothing much will change. We are past the point of logical analysis; each piece of information will be treated with confirmation-bias. The report and the clarification will give sufficient ammunition to PTI and PAT to fuel another month of the same speeches.

On the other hand, this does not exonerate the ECP. If nothing else, this report is a damning statement of incompetence. The statement that these were the “fairest elections in Pakistani history” does not cover the fact that they could have been better. There needs to be some measure of accountability at the ECP, blaming the ROs and election staff does not give a clean chit to the higher ups. Heads must roll.

This report could be useful; its findings can be used to bring comprehensive election reform, the shortcomings of the election procedure can be ironed out. This can only happen if we look at the report in its entirety, not cherry pick phrases that suit our political interest to pursue personal agendas.