The history of ban on Pakistani political parties dates back to July 1954 when the Communist Party of Pakistan was outlawed on charges of overthrowing the then Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan in 1951.
This allegedly Soviet-backed unsuccessful plot, led by Major-General Akbar Khan, is also known as the Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case in history.
General Akbar, his wife, poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, dozens of military officers and the Communist Party’s General Secretary Sajjad Zaheer were arrested, tried and thrown in jails.
Soon after the ban was imposed, a crackdown was also launched against the Communist Party leadership.
Upon being released, Sajjad was deported back to India. He died in 1973 on one of his frequent visits to the former USSR. Sajjad’s daughter Nadira is married to renowned Indian actor Raj Babbar.
Marxist revolutionary Sajjad Zaheer (1905-1973) had founded the Communist Party in Calcutta on March 6, 1948.
Soon after it had shifted its offices to the newly-born Pakistan, the Communist Party had instantly established links with labour leaders and trade unionists, much like the Russian revolutionary, Vladimir Lenin, had done in Russia in 1917.
This party also gave shape to an active student organisation called the Democratic Students Federation (also banned in 1954).
The Communist Party members had continued to operate in a more clandestine manner within progressive parties like the Azad Pakistan Party and the National Awami Party (NAP).
This party’s membership was estimated in mid-1960s by the US State Department to be around 3,000.
The Communist Party was again registered in 2013.
Ban on National Awami Party (NAP):
The National Awami Party was de-notified twice on November 26, 1971, and February 10, 1975, by the third President Agha Yahya Khan (1917-1980) and then by the country’s ninth Premier and fourth head of state Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (1928-1979) respectively.
Founded in 1957 in Dhaka by Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani (1880-1976), who is known to have supported Ayub Khan in the controversial 1965 Presidential election against Fatima Jinnah, the pro-Chinese National Awami Party was split into two factions in 1967.
Maulana Bhashani was supported by renowned politicians like Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo (1917-1989), G.M Syed (1904-1995), Maulana Mufti Mahmood (1919-1980) and Abdul Samad Khan Achakzai (1907-1973) etc.
However, only one Sindhi nationalist G.M Syed remained associated with NAP for five initial years till 1962.
In East Pakistan, this political entity was headed by Maulana Bhashani while in West Pakistan, the pro-Soviet Abdul Ghaffar Khan’s son Wali Khan (1917-2006) had gone on to lead it.
More recent bans in Pakistan on religious-cum-political and purely militant outfits:
Research shows that between 2001 and 2015, more than 60 Pakistani organisations and armed anti-state groups were banned for fanning religious extremism and sectarianism, and for their radical agendas and separatist designs.
Many of these groups did re-emerge after some time with different names and titles---but were mostly banned again.
The list of the organisations proscribed between 2001 and 2015 is as follows:
The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi; Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan; Jaish-e-Muhammad; Lakhar-e-Tayyeba; Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan; Tehreek-e-Jaafria Pakistan; Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e- Shariat-e-Mohammadi; Tehreek-e-Islami; Al-Qaeda; Millat-e-Islamia Pakistan (formerly Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan); Khuddam-ul-Islam; Islami Tehreek Pakistan (formerly Tehreek-e-Jaafria Pakistan); Jamiat-ul-Ansar; Jamiat-ul-Furqan; Hizb-ul-Tehrir; Khair-un-Nas International Trust; Balochistan Liberation Armv or BLA; Islamic Students Movement of Pakistan; Lashkar-e-Islam; Ansar-ul-Islam--Haji Namdar Group; Tehreek-e- Taliban Pakistan; Balochistan Republican Army; Balochistan Liberation Front; Laskhar-e-Balochistan; Balochistan Liberation United Front; Balochistan Musallah Defa Tanzeem; Shia Tulaba Action Committee, Gilgit; Markaz Sabeel Organisation, Gilgit; Tanzeem Naujawanan-e-Ahle Sunnat, Gilgit; People’s Aman Committee (Lyari), Karachi; Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (formerly Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan); Al- Harmain Foundation; Rabita Trust; Anjuman-e- Imamia Gilgit Baltistan; Muslim Student’s Organisation Gigit Baltistan; Balochistan Bunyad Parast Army; Tehreek Nafaz-e- Aman; Tahafuz-e-Hadudallah; Balochistan Waja Liberation Army; Baloch Republican Party; Azad Balochistan United Army; Islami Mujahideen; Jaish-e- Islam; the Balochistan National Liberation Army; Khana-e-Hikmat, Gilgit-Baltistan; Tehrik-i-Taliban, Swat; Tehrik-i-Taliban Mohmand, Tariq Geedar Group; Abdullah Azam Brigade; East Turkmenistan Islamic Movement; Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan; Islamic Jehad Union; Tehrik-i-Taliban Bajaur; Amar bil Maroof wa Nahi anil Munkir (Haji Namdar Group); Baloch Student Organisation Azad; United Baloch Army; Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz; and the Daesh or ISIS, or only IS.
It is imperative to note that no militant outfit was banned during 2014.
While Jamaatud Dawa has been under observation since December 1, 2005, the Sunni Tehreek also is on the government watch list since January 17, 2007.
Similarly, the Al-Akhtar Trust and Al-Rashid Trust are listed under “United Nations Security Council Resolution 1267” since December 1, 2005.
The UN Resolution 1267 requires all states to freeze the assets of people and organisations on a list established by the Resolution.
In February 2007, the Pakistani authorities shut down the offices of Al-Rasheed Trust and Al-Akhtar Trust in different cities, including 21 offices of both groups in Sindh.
The Al-Rasheed Trust was placed on the list in 2001 and Al-Akhtar Trust was added to this list in 2005 because of their suspected links with al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
The government had opted to freeze Al-Rasheed Trust’s accounts after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, but a court in 2003 had declared the move illegal.
Ban on political parties around the world:
Research conducted by the “Jang Group and Geo Television Network” reveals that many countries like United States, Spain, Germany, South Korea, Iran, South Africa, China, Russia, Czechoslovakia, Thailand, former Yugoslavia and Turkey etc have all banned their political organisations during the last one century or so for various reasons—both right and wrong.
Globally, many political parties were either outlawed by the courts or they were disbanded by their powerful adversaries for innumerable reasons, which ranged from the involvement of these entities in anti-state agendas, for being sponsored by enemy nations to create unrest in the countries of their origin, for challenging incumbent monarchies, for hatching conspiracies against sitting democratic regimes and for violating electoral laws etc.
In most cases, political parties were outlawed after they were declared security threats due to their participation in terrorism-related activities.
However, in some instances, they may have been politically victimised too, one of the key reasons why some of them did not find it difficult to muster public support at the time of their resurfacing under the same title—as was the case with Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress—or those that came up with a different name, as was the case with the National Awami Party of Pakistan (NAP), now Awami National Party (ANP).
Research shows that ideology had primarily played a major role in acceptance of these parties, which had resurrected after being proscribed.
Ban on Indian political entities:
In India, Premier Indira Gandhi had banned 26 anti-Congress political parties like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Jamaat-e-Islami etc during the 21-month long 1975 Emergency, which was proclaimed on her advice by the then Indian President Fakhruddin Ahmed.
Indira had opted to proclaim Emergency just days after the Allahabad High Court had unseated her from her seat in Lok Sabha and had banned her from contesting any election for the next six years on charges of misusing government machinery for her election campaign.
Ban on American political parties:
Formed in 1919, the Communist Party of United States was banned in 1954 by the Supreme Court.
Declaring it illegal, the US Apex Court had ruled that the party’s role as “the agency of a hostile foreign power” had rendered its existence a clear present and continuing danger to the security of the United States.
Approximately 215 people were indicted under the 1940 Smith Act, which had made it unlawful knowingly to conspire to teach, advise, or advocate the overthrow or destruction of the US government and which served as the basis for the federal prosecution of members of the Communist Party and other left-wing political groups during the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Nevertheless, the party still exists in the United States despite a lot of question marks on its legality and has not only been accused of receiving funding from the former Soviet Union, but is still being alleged of receiving financial assistance from the Russian Federation.
Ban on British political parties:
In March 2015, a British political entity “The Beer, Baccy and Crumpet Party” was banned from standing at the election due to its inappropriate title.
While “Baccy” is British slang for tobacco, “Crumpet” is savoury cake with a soft, porous texture.
The British Election Commission, which can ban a party if its name is offensive, had ruled the word “Crumpet” could be regarded as offensive to women, because in Britain, it is slang for young and pretty women.
The banned party’s leader Ray Hall was quoted as saying that the British system was biased and unfair, asserting it was flawed because the larger parties had far great financial backing than smaller parties.
Interestingly, this party had earlier contested a 2013 bye-election, finishing seventh out of 14 parties with 235 votes.
In 1988, the Conservative administration of Margaret Thatcher had banned the voices of Sinn Fein representatives from being broadcast, saying it wanted to "starve them of the oxygen of publicity.”
UK broadcasters had responded by using actors' voices when reporting the words of Sinn Fein, while lobbying furiously against the ban, which was lifted in 1994 by Premier John Major.
In March 2011, Spain’s Supreme Court had barred a political party, “Sortu,” on grounds that it was a continuation of a banned political wing of the much-feared terrorist group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), which had first come to the fore in 1959 and had been held responsible for 829 deaths in Spain and France since 1968.
Another Spanish party, called the Batasuna was banned in 2003on orders of the country’s apex court for orchestrating terrorism.
In South Korea, the anti-imperialist “National Democratic Front,” an underground pro-communist organisation, was banned by the state under the National Security Law, but reportedly operates clandestinely.
The banned South Korean “Revolutionary Party for Reunification” had changed its name to the “National Democratic Front of South Korea” in 1985 after merging with the “Strategic Liberation Party of South Korea.”
The China Democracy Party, formed in 1988 with the aim of starting democratic reform from local government, was banned by the ruling Communist Party.
The founder of this political party was sentenced in December 1998 to 11 years of imprisonment and three years of deprivation of political rights for subversion.
Another Chinese political entity, the “New Democracy Party of China,” was also banned by the Communist Party. This group was established by a university professor in 2007.
Former Soviet Union:
Formed in 1992, the “National Bolshevik Party of Russia” was liquidated by a lower court in June 2005, but the Russian Supreme Court had overturned the ban in August 2005.
However, the Russian apex court had upheld the ban on the National Bolshevik Party on the grounds that it violated the law on political parties, by calling itself a party without being registered as such.
The “Neo-Communist Party of the Soviet Union,” which had existed between 1974 and 1985, had experienced self-dissolution, but many analysts thought it was “decently” disbanded.
The “German Nationalist Party” and the “German National Socialist Workers’ Party” here were outlawed in 1933 on the grounds of their alleged anti-state activities.
The “Thai Rak Party” here was banned by the court in 2007 due to violations of electoral laws. From 2001 to 2006, it was the ruling party under the then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Eight months after a military coup had forced Premier Thaksin to stay in exile, the party was dissolved in 2007, with 111 former party members banned from participating in politics for five years.
The “Yugoslav Democratic Party” was disqualified by the ruling Communist Party in the country in 1945.
This liberal political party, founded in June 1918, had won majority of votes in the country’s first national elections held in 1920.
Its members were persecuted, some killed and others were sentenced to long prison terms.
In 1933, Hitler’s Nazi Party had declared itself the only political party in Germany and had outlawed all political entities.
Years later, the “Socialist Imperial Party” and the “Communist Party” were declared unconstitutional by the court.
As far as the “Socialist Imperial Party” was concerned, the court had received enough evidence in 1951 that it was a Nazi offshoot.
The court had dissolved the party and confiscated its assets, besides forbidding any re-creation of this party in any form.
In 2001, the German Government also tried to disband the National Democratic Party, which had a membership of 6,000, but the attempt suffered a serious setback in 2002 after a number of the party members had established the state’s mala fide. The party had later merged with another political entity called the German People’s Union in 2011. The merger was declared unlawful by the court though.
German officials had again tried to outlaw the party in December 2012, with the interior ministers of all 16 states recommending a ban.
In April 2016, the “Washington Times” had reported that the upper house of the German parliament had formally asked the court to ban this party on grounds that it was racist and a threat to democracy.
According to the August 28, 2002 edition of the BBC, the French authorities had outlawed Radical Unity, a tiny neo-Nazi group, after one of its members tried to assassinate President Chirac during a Bastille Day Parade in July 2002.
Turkey has banned almost 20 parties since the adoption of a military-inspired constitution in 1982, two years after a military coup.
These include the People’s Democracy Party, the People’s Labour Party, the Nation Party, the Democratic Society Party of Turkey, the Virtue Party, Socialist Party, Islamist Welfare Party and Democratic Society Party etc.
The “Muslim People’s Republic Party” or the “Islamic People’s Republican Party” was a short-lived entity associated with the Shia sect. It was founded in 1979 during the Iranian Revolution, but was disbanded in 1980 due to views conflicting with Ayatollah Khomeini.
Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress was disbanded in April 1960 in the wake an Emergency. The party leaders were accused of receiving crucial military supports from the Soviet Union and Cuba. Some 156 persons, including Nelson Mandela, were tried on treason charges after they were arrested in 1956.
Succumbing to international pressure, the then South African President de Klerk had reinstated the African National Congress and had to release Mandela, whose leadership had helped his party win the first democratic polls in South Africa.