Mainstream Weekly

Home > 2023 > Modi government following Zia model to disenfranchise Rahul | Faraz (...)

Mainstream, VOL 61 No 13, March 25, 2023

Modi government following Zia model to disenfranchise Rahul | Faraz Ahmad

Saturday 25 March 2023, by Faraz Ahmad


The residual Pakistan after its dismemberment and creation of Bangla Desh in 1971, held its first elections to the National Assembly sometime around March, 1977. The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) founded by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on the lines of the Congress party in India, as the first elected Prime Minister, led the PPP under the 1973 Constitution, to a sweeping victory across the remaining four provinces of Pakistan, including numerically strong Punjab.

The right-wing Opposition refused to accept these results and launched a violent anti-Bhutto, anti-PPP agitations in most big cities of Pakistan for months together claiming that Bhutto was so unpopular with the people of Pakistan that there is no way these results reflected the will of the people and Bhutto had rigged these elections. They demanded a White Paper on those elections and a re-election under Army supervision. Later the military regime of General Mohammad Ziaul Haq brought out some semblance of a White Paper. Yet with all the effort to falsify figures and data, it could barely pinpoint half a dozen constituencies where any irregularity needed to be probed.

Yet, Bhutto invited the nine-party right-wing alliance, called the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) led chiefly by Jamaat Islami the equivalent of the RSS/BJP in our country for a negotiated settlement of their demands. It also included Khan Abdul Wali Khan’s National Awamii Party (NAP) largely restricted to what was then called the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) later christened as Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Istaqlal (PTI) of retired Air Marshal Asghar Khan, an obvious plant of the Pakistani armed forces because he resisted and put spokes into Bhutto’s bid to resolve the crisis through peaceful means. From hindsight it appears Asghar Khan, who later turned against his patrons as well (that was long after Bhutto was hanged by General Mohammad Ziaul Haq in a judicial murder) had an advance knowledge of the impending Army coup to depose Bhutto and did not want the PNA to put its stamp of approval on any agreement, for that would have left Zia with no excuse to depose Bhutto.

On July 5, 1977 Army chief Gen. Zia deposed Bhutto packed him off along with other political leaders to Murrree where Bhutto was detained initially in a Government guest house. Ramzan was approaching or had already arrived. The very next day or the day after Gen. Zia went on air and announced “free and fair elections within 90 days” calling it ‘Operation Fairplay’ after which he claimed he and his Army would return to barracks. It is necessary to recall this because Gen. Zia never kept his promise and all those parties accusing Bhutto of rigging the elections, were so fearful of the PPP returning to power even under Zia’s watchful eyes that within days they, led chiefly by Asghar Khan, started screaming ‘Ehtesab, ehtesab” meaning accountability first. That is postpone elections to try Bhutto first.

Once all the political leaders were released including Bhutto, around July 27, there was such a warm public response to Bhutto wherever he went that his opponents and detractors both among politicians and in the Army led by Zia, started fearing Bhutto’s return at the head of one more electoral victory. Zia then at the PNA appeal, abandoned ‘Operation Fairplay’ for Bhutto’s opponents could ill afford the elections. Bhutto was sent to jail on a totally bogus case—the accusation of a rival politician Ahmed Raza Kasuri that Bhutto had ordered the security agency FIA to eliminate Ahmed Raza Kasuri, who is still alive and a lackey of the Army to date, while Bhutto was sentenced to death by the Lahore High Court in an obvious mistrial.

On the other hand when Bhutto and the PPP approached the Supreme Court of Pakistan against Zia charging him with suspending and sabotaging the 1973 Constitution, whose penalty was death, the apex court of Pakistan while conceding this point, invoked the “law of Necessity” to legitimise Zia’s patently unlawful, unconstitutional rule.

Recalling this is relevant in today’s context when some lower court of Surat in Gujarat has convicted the Congress leader with two years’ imprisonment on a defamation charge by some unknown inconsequential Gujarat BJP MLA Purnesh Modi who we had never heard of. Acting with unusual alacrity the Lok Sabha disqualified Rahul Gandhi the very next day. The occasional act of lower judiciary in using two different yardsticks in handling cases pertaining to opponents of this government and those from the ruling establishment, clearly proves that even this vital institution of democracy is under serious threat. See what Chief justice D.Y. Chandrachud said in November last year, “Higher judiciary is flooded with bail applications due to reluctance at grassroot to grant bail. Judges at the grassroots are reluctant to grant bail not because they don’t understand crime, but there is a sense of fear of being targeted for granting bail in heinous cases.” Already legal luminaries like Dushyant Dave have spoken of pressures building up on lower judiciary and with our honourable Law minister virtually threatening judges and accusing former judges of being “anti-national” this judgement comes as no surprise. And mind you Judge Verma has convicted Rahul of two years’ imprisonment, for anything less than that even 23 months would not have invited the provisions of Section 8(4) of the Representation of Peoples Act which was interpreted by the Supreme Court in its judgement of July 10, 2013 directly affecting Lalu Prasad’s political career that the disqualification of a member of Parliament or Legislative Assembly should be immediate and not wait for the outcome of any relief granted by the court of appeal. But Lalu became an eyesore for the ruling BJP ever since he scuttled L.K. Advani’s rath yatra in 1990 and then scored a resounding victory in the 1991 general elections in Bihar and an equally impressive victory in Bihar assembly elections in 1994 despite all the odds including the then Chief Election Commissioner T.N. Seshan.

As the years roll by the Sanghi establishment has become more blasé and upfront in its effort to suppress any dissent or criticism or the revival of Opposition in the country as a counterweight to Modi. So instead of facing Rahul’s questions on alleged Modi complicity in promoting Adani’s enteprises, they just wanted to get rid of this new irritant. First the BJP benches held up the House proceedings in both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha pressing for Rahul’s apology for stating abroad how democracy is being throttled in India, which by the way everyone all over the world knows by now. Rahul sought the Speaker’s protection to be given an opportunity to present his case and no opportunity was granted to him by the Lok Sabha speaker, in the face of treasury benches insisting apology first or Rahul’s expulsion.

Is it a sheer coincidence that a judicial magistrate of Surat convicted Rahul of criminal defamation of one Purnesh Modi who none of us had heard of and it is doubtful if Rahul too knew of him, least of all trying to defame this obscure gentleman from Gujarat far, far away in Karnataka in 2019. But Lok Sabha’s urgency to disqualify Rahul leads one to wonder whether all this was a deliberate and conscious frame up to silence Rahul’s voice in Parliament.

Ever since Rahul started his Bharat Jodo Yatra last winter across the country walking in a T shirt in freezing cold, around 4000 kilometres from southern point of the country Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu to northern most point, Srinagar in Kashmir, the Narendra Modi led government is evidently feeling unnerved with the emergence of Rahul Gandhi in a new avatar. Reacting to the Hindenburg report Rahul posed some pertinent questions to the Prime Minister on his perceived proximity to Gujarati billionaire Gautam Adani, cautioning the Nation of crony capitalism and demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to probe the alleged Adani-Modi axis which the Hindenburg report and noted journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta exposed in detail.

Remember how the JPC on Bofors brought disrepute to Rajiv Gandhi in the run up to the 1989 general elections with the BJP and its allies, Janata Dal carried out a canard ‘gali, gali mein shor hai, Rajiv Gandhi chor hai.’ Eventually the Delhi High Court found no substance in the allegation of Rajiv’s involvement in any scam regarding Bofors gun. Already the Aam Aadmi Party has been pasting banners and posters with the appeal, ‘Modi hatao, desh bachao’ (remove Modi to save the country.) Modi is the BJP’s mascot and if the epithet sticks to him it may become difficult for the BJP to campaign in his name in the forthcoming 2024 general elections.

Therefore In this election year the ruling BJP can ill afford Rahul or the rest of Opposition members, cutting across party lines like the DMK, the NCP or the Communist parties or Lalu’s RJD, or AAP whose ministers Manish Sisodia and Satyendra Jain are languishing in jail questioning the Modani axis. It has been specially targeting those who dare to stand up and speak against Modi’s tyranny, be it Mohammad Azam Khan in Rampur or Nawab Malik in Maharashtra or Sisodia in Delhi. The list is too long to put down all the victims of BJP with the help of a collusive ED, CBI, NIA et al.

But again going back to Pakistan, General Zia kept Democracy crushed under his heavy army boots as long as he lived. But within months of his death in a plane crash, suspected to be a sabotage from within, Bhutto’s daughter Benazir led the PPP to power in largely free elections becoming Pakistan’s first woman Prime Minister. This is merely to remind the current establishment that the more you suppress the Opposition the greater resilience and strength it gathers with people’s support

ISSN (Mainstream Online) : 2582-7316 | Privacy Policy|
Notice: Mainstream Weekly appears online only.