Justice Markandey Katju: Long live Liaquat Ali Chattha

Justice Markandey Katju

By Justice Markandey Katju–

(Justice Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own)

In my 78 years of existence, I have known and heard of many bureaucrats, but none like Liaquat Ali Chattha (pictured above), the Commissioner of Rawalpindi division, Pakistan, who recently held a press conference and resigned, and was later arrested and taken to an unknown place.

In the press conference, he did what perhaps no bureaucrat has ever done in the world — he confessed to his crime of rigging the parliamentary elections in his division, and said he deserved to be publicly hanged.

In the 13 parliamentary constituencies in his division, the jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) candidates were leading by over 70,000 votes each, but on his orders they were declared to have lost. He said that due to “pressure from above” he had stabbed the country in the back, for which he could not sleep for several nights, and for that he was taking full responsibility. He also said that he was thinking of killing himself, but ultimately decided to go public with a full disclosure of rigging and falsification of the election results.

Some people, mostly associated with the erstwhile Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) government, have declared Liaquat Ali as “a mental case”. Punjab’s caretaker Information Minister Amir Mir dismissed the allegations made by Chattha and said he suffered from mental illness. The Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) or PMLN raised concerns about Chattha’s mental condition with former Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan calling him a “psycho”.

In my opinion, it was a genuine case of remorse, and had no other motivation. There is no doubt that there was large-scale rigging in the elections. In fact, early leads suggested that PTI candidates were leading in 148 seats, while PMLN in 43 and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in 47. At this stage, the announcements suddenly stopped, and remained suspended for several hours, after which the leads, and then the results had altered drastically.

I have no doubt that the commissioner genuinely felt guilty about the massive fraud. He had become a willing party, and that realization would not let him sleep, and almost drove him to suicide.

One is reminded of a similar incident from than two millennia ago. Emperor Ashoka, after his famous victory in the battle of Kalinga, felt great remorse at the large number of deaths. In the famous Kalinga Edict (the 13th Major Rock Edict), the Emperor declared:

“When king Devanampriya (the beloved of the gods) Priyadarsin had been anointed eight years, the country of the Kalingas was conquered by him. One hundred and fifty thousand in number were the men who were deported thence, one hundred thousand in number were those who were slain there, and many times as many those who died.

After that, now that the country of the Kalingas has been conquered, Devanampriya expresses great repentance on account of his conquest of the country of the Kalingas. For, this is considered very painful and deplorable by Devanampriya, that, while one is conquering an unconquered country, slaughter, death, and deportation of people take place there.

Therefore, even the hundredth part or the thousandth part of all those people who were slain, who died, and who were deported at that time when the country of the Kalingas was conquered, would now be considered very deplorable by Devanampriya.”

Liaquat Ali Chattha was not an emperor like Ashoka, only commissioner of one division in a country with many, his expression of remorse recalls what happened in 261 B.C.

Never in world history has a victor expressed remorse over his victory. And never in world history has a bureaucrat voluntarily and publicly confess to a crime of this magnitude.

Long live Liaquat Ali Chattha! Hats off to him!

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