Islamabad: Pakistan's Supreme Court on Thursday absolved Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's PML-N party of rigging the 2013 general election, in a major relief for the premier who said the probe findings "closed forever the door of allegations and accusations".
The judicial commission constituted by the apex court 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 report further said that "allegations against those allegedly involved in the plan/design to influence the outcome of the elections also remained unsubstantiated by the evidence on record".
A vindicated Sharif said the opposition parties did not provide any evidence of the alleged rigging in elections.
"Looking at the findings of the judicial commission, it cannot be said that the results were against popular mandate," he said.
"Inquiry commission's comprehensive report does not only reaffirm our stance but also the mandate of Pakistani people," he added.
"Now that the respected inquiry commission has confirmed the transparency of the 2013 polls, the door of allegations and accusations should be closed forever," said the premier.
The prime minister, while taking a jibe at rival Khan's PTI, saying "Embarrassing Pakistan in the whole world by making the fair and transparent elections controversial is one regrettable chapter of our history that will not be forgotten easily," the Dawn reported.
"Along with the world, we knew there was no rigging in elections, and we hope all those who wasted time of their countrymen will understand too," said Sharif.
"Lets take this judicial commission report as a milestone,
lets start a journey which takes us to prosperity and progress rather than towards backwardness.
"For the first time in country's history, the government conducted a free and fair inquiry and all parties were given equal and fair opportunity to present their point of view," Sharif said.
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 nearly 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 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.