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LAHORE: During the last century or so, dozens of formidable political parties in Pakistan and even in settled global democracies like India, United States and United Kingdom etc, have been banned for various reasons—-both right and wrong.
An in-depth research conducted by the “Jang Group and Geo Television Network” reveals that these 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).
Ideology played a major role in acceptance of these parties, which had resurrected after being proscribed.All national political parties in Pakistan were disallowed to function in 1958 by the country’s military ruler Ayub Khan, who hated any opposition—as all dictators do.
The Maulana Bhashani-led National Awami Party (NAP), deemed to be a sister party of the Communist Party of Pakistan, was the first to face the music of a Martial Law regime.Newspaper archives reveal that Hassan Nasir, a NAP stalwart, was allegedly killed in police custody after an official crackdown.
In 1962, Ayub Khan had allowed political parties to function again and the NAP
was revived, but without the G.M. Syed group.The NAP had split in 1967 after its founder MaulanaBhashani had decided to support Ayub Khan in the controversial Presidential election against Fatima Jinnah.
A major chunk of NAP leaders had now joined the Bangladesh Nationalist party in East Pakistan.In West Pakistan, the pro-Soviet Abdul Wali Khan was the NAP spearhead, but his political entity was banned by Yahya Khan’s military government in 1971.
Remember, after the 1971 East Pakistan tragedy, NAP had formed coalition governments in the NWFP and Balochistan by winning majority of seats.Mir Ghaus Bux Bizenjo was appointed Governor of Balochistan, while Sardar Akhtar Mengal was elected the first Chief Minister.In NWFP, Mufti Mahmood was elected Chief Minister and Arbab Sikandar Khan was appointed the Governor.
But in 1973, Bhutto dismissed the Balochistan government under the national security pretext. It was said that not only had a cache of arms been discovered at the Iraqi Embassy in Islamabad, but Nawab Akbar Bugti’s alleged London Plan to dismember Pakistan had also been unveiled again.
Bhutto had further alleged that the NAP regimes in Balochistan and NWFP were actually vying to gain independence from Pakistan.After the dismissal of the Balochistan government, the NAP government in NWFP had resigned in protest too.
On February 8, 1975, the Wali Khan-led faction of NAP was again prohibited to operate, this time by the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto regime, and most of its leaders like Attaullah Mengal, Ghaus Box Bizenjo and Khair Bakhsh Marri etc were sent to languish in jails on charges of anti-state activities.
The NAP ban had come just days after the assassination of Bhutto’s close aide Hayat Khan Sherpao in a Peshawar bomb blast. Consequently, Wali Khan was charged with murder and hence handcuffed.
The Bhutto government had also implicated Wali Khan in the 1976 Hyderabad Conspiracy Case, though he and his lieutenants including scores of national and provincial parliamentarians like Amirzadah Khan, Syed Kaswar Gardezi and revolutionary poets Gul Khan Nasir and Habib Jalib etc were acquitted in the Hayat Sherpao’s murder case.
As expected, the decision to ban NAP was upheld by the courts.The banned NAP had later resurrected in 1976 with the name of National Democratic Party, from which the Awami National Party (ANP) had sprouted due to rifts among party colleagues.
Chronicles of history and Sherbaz Khan Mazari’s book “A Journey Into Disillusionment” have shed enough light on how NAP was banned twice during its eight-year-long existence between 1967 and 1975.
Quite recently 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 party manifesto had included pledges to cut beer duty, repeal the smoking ban in pubs and ban banks from charging fees for people going overdrawn by a small amount.
The British Election Commission, which can ban a party if its name is offensive, 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.
It is noteworthy that since 2000, Britain has maintained a list of organisations that are officially banned and people are not supposed to be members of these organisations. The public can neither support these organisations and even wearing a T-shirt bearing the names or logos of such political entities is a criminal offence.
There are currently 44 “international” groups on the banned list, not including 14 groups active in Northern Ireland.
In India, Premier Indira Gandhi had banned 26 anti-Congress political parties like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) 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 Ali 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. She was guilty of misusing government machinery for her election campaign. Indira Gandhi had challenged the High Court’s decision in the Supreme Court, but the apex court judges had upheld the judgement and had ordered that all privileges Gandhi received as a parliamentarian be stopped, besides being barred from voting.
During Indira’s Emergency, over 1,000 of her political adversaries like Morarji Desai, L.K. Advani and Atal Behari Vajpayee etc were jailed after police raids were conducted on headquarters and offices of the political outfits under scrutiny. Civil liberties were curbed and the press was censored. Even the electricity supply to all major newspapers was disconnected for a few hours.
(Reference: Political historian Barbara Somervill’s book “Indira Gandhi: Political leader in India”)
Research further shows that other countries like United States, Spain, Germany, South Korea, Iran, South Africa, China, Russia, Czechoslovakia, Thailand, former Yugoslavia, Finland, Turkey, Brunei, Bhutan, Chad and Uzbekistan etc have all banned their political organisations during the last one century or so.
Writer Paul Franz’s research paper “Unconstitutional and outlawed political parties: A German-American comparison” has given details about the ban on “Communist Party” in United States of America.
The “Communist Control Act of 1954” had prohibited the party’s name from appearing on any national, state or local ballots.
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.
In Dennis versus United States Case of 1951, the Court had ruled that Eugene Dennis (General Secretary of the American Communist Party), had no right under the First Amendment of the US Constitution to exercise free speech, publication and assembly, if the exercise involved the creation of a plot to overthrow the government.
The case was filed four years after 11 leaders of the Communist Party had been convicted under the Smith Act (Alien Registration Act of 1940) of conspiring to organise the Communist Party of the United States.
These convicted leaders, through a petition, had prayed that the Smith Act of 1940 had violated their constitutional right to freedom of speech, besides pleading that they served no clear and present danger to the nation.
In March 2011, Spain’s Supreme Court had barred a new 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 came to the fore in 1959 and had been held responsible for 829 deaths in Spain and France since 1968.
The ETA has been operating in northern Spain and southwestern France since. It had declared ceasefires in 1989, 1996, 1998 and 2006, and subsequently broke them.
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 operates clandestinely.
It has offices in North Korea and Japan.
It was founded as the “Revolutionary Party for Reunification” in 1969.
Both its founders were killed, while their colleagues were sentenced to long prison terms.
However, its name was changed to the “National Democratic Front of South Korea” in 1985 after merging with the “Strategic Liberation Party of South Korea.”
In China, the local committee of China Democracy Party was formed in 1988 with the aim of starting democratic reform from local government.
The party was banned by the Communist Party of China and an immediate crackdown against its members was ordered in Beijing.
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 ruling Communist Party of China. This group was established by a university professor in 2007. The professor had published an open letter to the leaders of China, whereby criticising their policies.
In former Soviet Union, the “National Bolshevik Party of Russia” was formed in 1992. This party was liquidated by a lower court in June 2005, but the Russian Supreme Court had overturned the ban in August 2005.
However, in November 2005, 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 September 1974 and January 1985, had experienced self-dissolution in January 1985—-but many analysts thought it was “decently” disbanded.
In Czechoslovakia, the “German Nationalist Party” and the “German National Socialist Workers’ Party” were outlawed in 1933 on the grounds of their alleged anti-state activities.
The “German Nationalist Party” was formed in 1919 and had represented the German-speaking population in one part of Czechoslovakia. Before being banned, it had 1,024 local chapters with 61,000 members around May 1932.
In Thailand, the “Thai Rak Party” was officially banned by the country’s constitutional court in 2007, due to violations of electoral laws during the 2006 legislative elections. From 2001 to 2006, it was the ruling party under the then Prime Minister and its founder Thaksin Shinawatra.
Eight months after a military coup had forced Premier Thaksin to stay in exile; the party was dissolved on May 30, 2007 by the constitutional tribunal, with 111 former party members banned from participating in politics for five years.
In Yugoslavia, 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.
After the Second World War, the “Yugoslav Democratic Party” had called for a boycott of communist-organised elections in 1945, only to win the wrath of the mighty Communists in power.
Its members were persecuted, some killed and others were sentenced to long prison terms. In Finland, the “Socialist Workers’ Party” was banned in 1923 and its 27 parliamentarians were jailed. The banned Communist Party of Finland was actually the main force behind this party.
In Germany, the “Socialist Imperial Party” and the “Communist Party” were declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court, which had used its exclusive jurisdiction.
As far as the “Socialist Imperial Party” was concerned, the court had received enough evidence in 1951 that it was an unabashed Nazi-front organization. The evidence against this entity had showed it to be actively hostile to most of the laid down democratic and constitutional principles. The court had dissolved the party and confiscated its assets, besides forbidding court any re-creation of this party in any form.
The party representatives, sitting in country’s legislative houses, were also unseated by the court.
In the “Communist Party” Case, the federal government had challenged the party’s constitutionality in 1951 on grounds that it had hindered the reunification of Germany and had violated rights of free speech and free association. Four years later, the court had accepted government’s reasoning and had sent the defending party packing.
(Reference: Paul Franz’s research paper “Unconstitutional and outlawed political parties: A German-American comparison”)
In Turkey, a Kurdish nationalist political entity called the “People’s Democracy Party” was banned by the Turkish constitutional court in March 2003 on alleged anti-state designs. It was founded in May 1994.
Another pro-Kurdish Turkish party, the “People’s Labour Party,” was banned by the country’s constitutional court in July 1993, just three years after its inception, due to the overt promotion of Kurdish cultural and political rights.
The “Nation Party of Turkey” had also flashed lot of headlines between 1948 and 1954, before it was formally outlawed.
Similarly, the “Democratic Society Party of Turkey” was banned by the country’s constitutional court in 2009 on charges that it had become the “focal point of activities against the indivisible unity of the state, the country and the nation.”
Yet another Turkish party—the “Virtue Party”—was found unconstitutional by the court in June 2001 for violating the secularist articles.
The list of banned parties in Turkey is a bit longer than other countries due to regular political turmoils and transformations after military rules.
In Brunei, the “Brunei People’s Party” was banned in 1962, just six years after its inception. Its manifesto was to democratise the government by shifting the national leadership from the King’s palace to the people.
In Bhutan, the “Bhutan Peoples’ Party” was banned by the country’s election commission in January 2008 for harbouring terrorist activities. Established in 1990, it is currently working in exile in Nepal.
It was the first political party in Bhutan to have staged mass protest rallies in the country during September 1990 movement against country’s monarchy—-a move that had triggered mass violence and had paved way for the government to dub this party a terrorist organisation. In 2001, the party’s founder R. K. Budathoki was also killed in East Nepal.
In Chad, the “National Union for Independence and Revolution” had ruled between 1984 and 1990, but was shown the door by its successors.
In Uzbekistan, the “Birlik Party” and the “Erk Party” were also banned in early 1990’s. They were unable to meet the official registration requirements. Although the “Erk Party” was somehow reinstated in 1994, the “Birlik Party” was constituted primarily by Uzbek intellectuals and writers in 1989.
In Iran, 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 conflicting views with Ayatollah Khomeini.
In South Africa, 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 a raid in 1956. Actually, 105 Africans, 21 Indians, 23 whites and 7 coloured leaders were jailed.
The main trial had lasted until 1961, when all of the defendants were found not guilty, though some of the accused were again made to stand in dock during 1964.
Although this trauma for Mandela and his like-minded South Africans had ended with fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. 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.