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Exclusive: Ex-AAP Member Sunil Lal asks RMF to revoke 2006 Magsaysay Award for Kejriwal, Here is Why!

Established in 1957, the Ramon Magsaysay Award is Asia's highest honor and is widely regarded as the region's equivalent of the Nobel Prize

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Mr. Arvind Kejriwal (extreme right) with the RMF Award in 2006. Image source: www.rmaf.org.ph

Ex-Aam Admi Party (AAP) member and an activist for Jan LokPal Movement, Sunil Lal wrote a letter to the Ramon Magsaysay Foundation (RMF) in Philippines, out of utter resentment and disappointment to revoke Magsaysay Award for Mr Kejriwal. In an exclusive Interview with sub-editor Deepannita Das of the NewsGram Team, Sunil opens his heart out on politics, leadership and the corruption surrounding the AAP party and what provoked him to write a six-page letter to the board of trustees  of RMF against Mr Kejriwal-

  • You were a former member of AAP and an Activist of Jan LokPal Movement. Is there any particular reason that you are not associated anymore with the AAP party?

Sunil Lal:AAP was founded on certain parameters that aimed to change the face of ongoing politics in the state in a positive manner. Back then, Kejriwal was head of Parivartan citizen’s movement in Delhi and was selected for Ramon Magsaysay Award for his dedication and contribution to India’s right-to-information (RTI) movement as well as empowering the common citizens of the nation to counter and fight corruption.

However, he is acting totally against all what he stood for at the time when he was considered for this prestigious Award. That is when I decided to quit the party. I feel it is a grave error of judgment by which a wrong man was selected for the Magsaysay Award.

  • In your letter, you have cited news reports, which state that there was fault with Kejriwal. Did you face the obstacles while being associated with the party or the change came afterwards?

Lal: By creating AAP, I feel that Mr Kejriwal has divided the volunteers of Jan LokPal Movement into two. The notion that Arvind Kejriwal ran a transparent and clean government was exposed, when Anil Galgali, an RTI activist filed an RTI seeking details from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry of the Delhi government, regarding the expenses incurred on the government advertisement. Instead of sharing the details, the Delhi government replied that the information was not available as it has not been compiled and asked the information seeker to personally visit their office and check the files for themselves.

Sunil Lal with Anna Hazare. Photo courtesy: Datta Awari
Sunil Lal with Anna Hazare. Photo courtesy: Datta Awari
  • To narrow it down, did the RTI Activists make queries about the AAP Government’s advertising expenses in particular or did it get rejected in a similar and indirect manner?

Lal: On completion of one year, Government of Delhi published Ads in all media platforms- in print as well as in electronic media, to mark their achievements. So, news papers, online portals as well as TV channels were flooded with ads and out of sheer curiosity, Mr Shailendra Pratap Singh filed an RTI asking the funding details of AAP’s extravagant ads in particular.

  • Can you just specify the type of questions asked to the AAP Government in Delhi, which they failed to reply to?

Lal: There were five questions in total that was asked by Mr Shailendra Pratap Singh while he filed RTI-

  • How many mediums were used to spread AAP government’s work in Delhi? Please provide name of agencies/companies of the categories- Lists of Newspapers, TV channels, Radio/FM channels, Other modes if any
  • In how many states did the Delhi govt. gave their achievement ads after the completion of 1 year? Please provide a list.
  • What was the total amount spent by Delhi government on these ads
  • For how many consecutive days the ads were given to above mentioned mediums?
  • Did Delhi government give contract to any agency to carry out these advertisements, please provide the name & details of the agency name?

To the surprise and shock, none was answered by the AAP Government in Delhi. Rather it  came up with a very vague reason for not sharing the details.

Sunil Lal with Dr Kiran Bedi and with the Faculty & the Directors of Nirma University as a Volunteer heading the for the Anna's Janlokpal Movement. Image source: www.iacbranding.org
Sunil Lal with Dr Kiran Bedi and with the Faculty & the Directors of Nirma University as a Volunteer heading the for the Anna’s Janlokpal Movement.
  • There were debates regarding tax department of Kejriwal’s Government. Do you want to share your thoughts regarding this?

Lal: Before joining the AAP party, Kejriwal was a tax officer himself who felt accountable against the existing corruption in the society and pledged to change that and vowed to fight the corruption in the tax department during his period in service.

But soon after, it was seen that his VAT Department was charged with corruption and was caught red handed for accepting bribe. Instead of fixing the problem, he was mum about it, when could set up a commission of experts to handle the issue of corruption in his department.

Sunil Lal, former AAP member and Team Leader at India Against Corruption
Sunil Lal, former AAP member and Team Leader at India Against Corruption

Talking further, Sunil feels that the (self proclaimed) Champion of anti-corruption, Mr Kejriwal has failed to keep his promise towards his people. The idea of a clean system, fair judgement and corruption free state was just an illusion for people who believed in him.

“Established in 1957, the Ramon Magsaysay Award is Asia’s highest honor and is widely regarded as the region’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize. It celebrates the memory and leadership example of the third Philippine president after whom the award is named, and is given every year to individuals or organizations in Asia who manifest the same selfless service and transformative influence that ruled the life of the late and beloved Filipino leader.”

In the letter written to RMF to revoke Magsaysay Award given to Kejriwal in 2006, Sunil says, “I am afraid, one of the recipients of your reputed Award is proving your choice to be wrong as today he is acting totally against all what he stood for at the time he was considered to be qualified for the Award.”

 –by Deepannita Das, sub-editor at NewsGram. The author can be reached at deepannitadas8@gmail.com

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  • AJ Krish

    Such claims against Mr Kejriwal raise serious doubts on the credibility of the party and what it stands for.If these accusations are true, the public has been fooled yet again into believing that their desire for a corruption-free was possible.

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The Errant Son: Mir Murtaza And Al-Zulfiqar

Would the Bhutto charm, have worked on India? And had it been so, would the map of the Indian sub-continent today, have resembled the idea of a free market zone in South Asia, with porous borders?

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Mir Murtaza Bhutto with Shahnawaz Bhutto
Mir Murtaza Bhutto with Shahnawaz Bhutto
Tania Bhattacharya
Tania Bhattacharya

By: Tania Bhattacharya

India-Pakistan relations have hit a record low following the dastardly Pulwama Attack on a CRPF convoy in Indian administered Kashmir, on the 14th of February this year. Curiously, the Pakistan PM Imran Khan, made a statement a few days ago, endorsing the Indian PM Modi, and suggesting, that in case there was a re-election of the latter, the Kashmir issue may be finally resolved. This scenario is significant, given that both Imran and Modi, are perceived hardliners in their respective nations. As some South Asian policy watchers have noted, it is hawks like the two aforementioned heads of state, and not peaceniks, who are more likely to take large risks over bilateral issues involving the two neighbours, since if any of them is required to acquiesce, they cannot be labelled as anti-nationals. Peaceniks, their good intentions aside, are looked upon with suspicion in their countries, which accuse them of selling out.

 

These are the heady days of jingoist patriotism in South Asia, where Right Wing organizations seem to be faring much better than the other political alternatives; but there was a time not very long ago, when Southern Asia was in a sweet spot between Dictatorship and Democracy, where conducive factors facilitated the spectre of Left-Wing radicalism, in both India and Pakistan. Between the imprisonment of Pakistan’s democratically elected PM Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and the mysterious plane crash that killed President Zia ul Haq in 1988, a shadowy entity by the name of Al-Zulfiqar had emerged out of the pale, and rocked the Zia dictatorship, with its nuisance value. What were the origins of Al Zulfiqar, and who, was its chief executive officer?

The PIA Hijack drama
The PIA Hijack drama

We must retrace our steps to the early 1970s, when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was the Pakistan president. His eldest son, and second-born, Mir Murtaza, would build a lavish tent on the sprawling lawns of 70 Clifton, the Bhutto residence at Karachi. Inside the private sanctuary he had made for himself, the young lad would read the influential works of prominent Marxist revolutionaries like Lenin, Mao, and Che Guevara. The walls of his tent would be adorned with posters of world-famous figures, who had adopted Marxist techniques and applied them to their personal agendas. Murtaza had become deeply involved with the guerrilla warfare ethos of Socialist insurgents and quickly became a role model for his younger male sibling, Shahnawaz, junior to him by four years.

 

Sensing that the wayward, and obstinate nature of the older Bhutto was getting him into trouble with his high school officials and law enforcement, Zulfiqar had insisted, that Murtaza abandon his tent, and his Leftist reactionary literature, to concentrate on his school syllabus, so that the straight and the narrow could produce results for the latter. As soon as it became possible, and after consulting his wife Nusrat Bhutto, the President had packed off his enfant terrible to study in the United States, and then to England, where he hoped, that a new environment would change him. It was here, that Murtaza shone. A thorough academic, he researched upon and produced a dissertation, concerning the consequences of India’s nuclear program, on Pakistan. He developed the reputation of being a cad, and somewhat of a lady’s man as well, during his student years in London, where he was a regular sighting at nightclubs, with one or the other pretty girl, on his arm.

 

His father, had made the issue of the ‘Muslim Bomb’ an international one, arguing, that since the Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Marxist political spheres had their own, ultimate weapon of mass destruction, it was only fair that the Islamic world follow suit. Israel though not openly belligerent with the bomb, was suspected of being in possession of the technology to construct one, in 1966 itself. Moreover, it had refused to sign the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty). Pakistan, under his leadership, he had sworn, would ‘gift’ the Muslim world with its first nuclear weapon. The president’s (and later, Prime Minister’s) son, would broach the topic on an academic level, and make its knowledge, widespread.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto with his third wife Husna Sheikh
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto with his third wife Husna Sheikh.

Murtaza was yet abroad, when his father, by the time, the democratically elected Prime Minister of his country, was toppled in mid-1977, in a military coup, headed by General Zia ul Haq, who until the event, had been Zulfiqar’s handpicked Chief of the Pakistan Armed Forces; and a man, that the confident, and arrogant premier, termed his ‘monkey general’. In a letter, handwritten to her brother, Benazir had advised him to travel to the United States, to meet with American leadership, that were friendly with the Pakistan Peoples Party, to plead for assistance in toppling the dictatorship of Zia. Interestingly, she had told him to steer clear of a top Bhutto aide, Ghulam Mustafa Khar. This is testified by Lt. General Khalid Mahmud Arif in his book Working With Zia. Khar, an uncle of PPP ex-Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar (2008 – 2013), had been a confidante of Prime Minister Bhutto, who he faithfully plied to the home of Bhutto’s first, secret mistress, and then, legally married third wife, Husna Sheikh, on a daily basis.

 

From the United States, Mir Murtaza had decided that it was not judicious to return to a strife-ridden homeland, which was experiencing its umpteenth military rule. Instead, he had flown to Syria and then Libya, to garner support from  Hafez  al-Assad and Muammar Gaddafi respectively. The Assads and Gaddafi were supportive of the Bhuttos. Zia to them, was an American puppet that had been installed as a means to an end, that too, through an undemocratic and unpopular regime change. It was in Syria occupied Lebanon, that Murtaza had begun building up a guerrilla outfit, which he named, the PLA (Pakistan Liberation Army). Members from the PPP back in Pakistan, were herded off to the Middle East, for rigorous guerrilla training, that was imparted by the Leftist PFLP (Popular Front For The Liberation Of Palestine). When Mir Murtaza deemed that the time was ripe for ambushing Zia’s men in positions of power; the trained militia of PLA flew to Afghanistan, where they continued further arms training, awaiting an opportune moment, to cross into their homeland, using the mountainous, and lawless tribal routes of northern Pakistan, which flanked the Durand Line.

 

While in Kabul, Murtaza Bhutto decided to rename his outfit Al-Zulfiqar Organization, or AZO. Shahnawaz, the younger son of the jailed premier, joined his older brother and was imparted training in guerrilla warfare, and violent Marxist insurrection. When not wielding guns in army fatigues, the young volunteers and the Bhutto brothers, would watch Bollywood flicks to kill time.

 

Initially, all Shahnawaz wished to do, was to open a tourist agency in Pakistan, and live quietly with the Afghan object of his affections. But the restless circumstances that engulfed the young man, forced him to join Al-Zulfiqar, all the more so, as it had his older brother at its helm; a man he had much admired from the days of his youth.

 

One of the first acts of the AZO, was to try to blow up Zia-ul-Haq’s plane with a missile, from an Islamabad rooftop. It did not produce the desired result. Next, was the hijack of a PIA (Pakistan International Airlines) flight. It was flown to Kabul, where the hijackers stated that the plane and its passengers would only be released if ninety-one political prisoners from the PPP, were set free from incarceration in Pakistan. Zia’s response initially, was a “No”. But once it became eminent, that there were no international mediators to take on the case on behalf of Pakistan; especially once Assad and Gaddafi explained the dilemma to General Zia, the latter was forced to rethink his stand. By then, AZO had reduced the demand from ninety-one prisoners, to some fifty-four of them. The Pakistan general was forced to comply with Murtaza’s bargain, as it released the PPP detainees from various gaols in the country, who were then swapped for the PIA plane and its passengers.