It was a few weeks before the general elections that I found a close friend (who also happens to be a political activist for change) in an upbeat mood. It turned out that he and his party colleagues were expecting to get enough seats in the National Assembly so as to be able to form a coalition government and implement their agenda for a ‘New Pakistan’.

I looked at the man and remarked that while his passion was commendable, he and his political leadership were detaching themselves from ground realities. I added that there were two things wrong with his party. First, its Chairman was headstrong and second, he was naively ignorant of how politics was played in the ‘land of the pure’.

My friend retorted that ridding Pakistani politics of corruption, lies and intrigue was one of the changes that his party wanted to bring about. I wished him good luck with the warning that come the Eleventh Day of May, he and his colleagues would be at the receiving end of election malpractices, the likes of which he would least expect.

Election Day came and went amidst disturbing television coverage of ‘rigging’ in Sindh and Punjab. People across the country waited in vain as an apathetical Election Commission ignored incriminating video footage and did nothing.

I met my friend, the political activist, again somewhere in the middle of Ramazan and asked him out of journalistic curiosity, if his party had learned some lessons and would corrective action be taken during the by-elections? He looked embarrassed, but then informed me that his leadership was not likely to make the same mistakes twice. I could not resist telling him that the first such error had already been committed by the ‘cricket skipper turned politician’, when he chose to relinquish his home seat in Mianwali. I added that under the circumstances, I would give PTI only a 50 percent chance of victory in this constituency.

Just one week before the by-polls, I commented to a fellow media person that Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf was likely to suffer a setback in Peshawar. I cited many reasons for my prediction, one being that the government in that province appeared to be bogged down and confused, leaving the over-expectant voter frustrated. The PTI nomination for NA 1 also confirmed the notion that the weak spot in Imran Khan’s strategy had exacerbated, providing an opportunity which would be exploited by a seasoned party such as the ANP. The results on Twenty Second of August proved that I was right on both counts.

As the largest by-elections in Pakistan’s electoral history approached, I thought that unlike May, there was a lack of ‘fire’ in the PTI campaign. Unable to put my finger on any other cause, I could only attribute the phenomenon to complacency.

My views on the ‘efficacy’ of the Election Commission were lent strength, when the Prime Minister addressed the nation just before the by-polls. The timing of this speech was in my reckoning, a violation of the Election Code of Conduct and the CEC should have advised the PM to postpone the broadcast till the voting was done and results announced.

The process of electing members to the National and Provincial Assemblies is now complete and the recently concluded phase in this process has been, by and large, free of any controversy, due more to the presence of the army at sensitive polling stations. In Lahore, only one constituency has regretfully become a test case for the Acting CEC. It would, perhaps, be in the fitness of things and in the interest of democracy that the Election Commission investigates this complaint and puts controversy at rest.

The ‘Pundits of Doom’, who insist that change has not come, must look around - for a change has taken place. It is visible in opposing candidates congratulating their opponents on winning; it is visible in toning down of meaningless rhetoric and promises; above all, it is visible in the fact that an elected government, howsoever inept, completed its tenure giving way to another democratically-elected successor.

The writer is a freelance columnist.