Monday, 8 March, 2021

Time to end criminalisation of politics


Purushottam P. Khatri

Nefarious nexus between politics and crime is not new in Nepal. The criminalisation of politics has drained the vitality of political system and discredited it so much so that that the politicians have virtually lost their face in public eyes and constantly become a subject of mockery.
Now it seems like that there are efforts to restore the lost image of politics, thanks to the evolving stability and assertive government that Nepal is witnessing following the formation of strong government. Of late, lawmakers have been nabbed over their alleged crimes on the trot.

Former speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara has been now sent to Dillibazaar prison over his involvement in an attempted rape case. The Kathmandu District Court decided to remand him to judicial custody till the adjudication of the case. He was arrested on the charge of attempting to rape Roshani Mahara, an employee at the parliamentary secretariat around a month ago. Although Mahara had refuted the rape allegation charges against him, terming it a ploy to finish his career, police gathered all evidences to prove his crime.
Suspended lawmaker Mohammad Aftab Alam is now in the police custody for his alleged involvement in a mass murder in Rautahat some 12 years back. He has been accused of being a chief perpetrator of heinous crime in which around two dozen people were tossed into a furnace of a brick kiln to erase the evidence of bomb blast that killed two persons and injured many on the eve of first CA polls in 2064 BS. Alam was arrested upon the repeated instructive orders of the Supreme Court, since 2012, to the Office of the Attorney General that had disgustingly refused to comply with.

The then home minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula had faced much criticism for failing to contain escalating violence in the Terai during the first CA elections. Sitaula had expressed his ignorance of the massacre though the rights organisations, including the National Human Rights Commission asked the then government to probe the case and bring the culprits to book.
The delayed arrest and investigation over Alam’s crime poses a question: Why did it take 12 years for authorities to arrest the accused though leaders of major parties and head of the then

government had the full knowledge of his crime?

Failure of institutions
Rights activists and former police officials say that Alam’s case is a symptomatic of a much bigger malaise - the structural failure of institutions to function in public interest - resulting from the politicisation of crime.

“Alam’s case serves as a classic example of the growing criminalisation of politics that has gripped Nepali society over the years,” said Borna Bahadur Karki, a senior advocate and former chairman of Press Council Nepal. Karki said that the political system appeared to be completely dysfunctional as it failed to investigate such a heinous crime.
He said that the cases of Alam and Mahara were the results of the politicisation of crimes in Nepal and these tendencies were prevalent in political parties in Nepal as well as India.
Charan Prasai, a human rights activist, said whatever the political leaders had said about these two major incidents, they indicated a failing political culture wherein the authorities concerned hesitated to take action against the alleged. “Over the years, politics has become a tool to flex muscle and make money for many corrupt and bad leaders,” said former AIG Bigyan Raj Sharma. He said that the Nepal Police endured intense political pressure when the police started investigation into serious crimes.
It was up to the concerned police administration from ward to central level to investigate the criminal cases, he said, adding that the district police office had greater responsibility to this end. "Many more such incidents will come to surface if we dare dig deeper,” Sharma warned. Meanwhile, Nepal Police spokesperson and Deputy Inspector General Bishwa Raj Pokharel said that Nepal Police was committed to taking action against anyone no matter which position s/he holds in the party if their activities violated laws.
Justice delivery

Prasai and Karki suggested the political parties and leaders initiate a political purification campaign within the parties, targeting criminal and corrupt-minded people to restore the credibility of the parties. Political parties and leaders, who pontificate about the importance of the rule of law and democracy, had themselves provided political protection to Mahara and Alam.
Had the human rights activists, civil society members, media, and free citizens not strongly reacted to such incidents and demanded justice to the victims, the political parties would not have shown willingness to act against them.

Discourage corrupt practice
“Political parties should publicly declare that they won’t shield criminal and corrupt people and give tickets to them to contest elections,” Prasain said. He said that the two cases were an eye-opener to the voters that they should think twice before casting their votes in the polls.
Lawyer Karki also suggested the parties and leaders should be able to give message to the individuals that they would discourage the corrupt and criminal practice within the parties. As the nation is experiencing relative stability with the federal dispensation, it is high time to pursue sweeping measures to ensure rule of law and end impunity. Without robust security and justice delivery, the new political system can hardly deepen and sail smoothly.

How do you feel after reading this news?