GILGIT: Activists of the Progressive Youth Front (PYF) in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) are hopeful Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government will revisit its predecessor’s decisions that led to the imprisonment of political leaders under terrorism charges.
Baba Jan, Iftikhar Hussain, Shakoorullah and nine others were sentenced to life in prison by an anti-terrorism court in October 2014 for ransacking police stations and torching government property in Hunza in 2011.
“They are political leaders, not terrorists,” Wajid Ali, a PYF member said on Sunday about the incarcerated leaders. Jan is the chief organiser of PYF and also the vice president of Awami Workers Party (AWP) which was formed after the merger of three leftist parties in 2012.
Ali said they are hopeful the prime minister will take this factor into account when he visits G-B next month. “The registration of cases at the ATC against politicians speaks highly of the undemocratic attitude of the government of Mehdi Shah,” Ali said.
Ali said PYF and other progressive leaders have decided to arrange a protest rally next week in front of the ATC where the imprisoned leaders will be presented for a hearing in another case. “Awami Action Committee, a 20-party alliance, has also pledged its support to us in our protest,” said Ali.
As part of the ‘Free Baba Jan and others’ protests this week, PYF also held a rally in Hunza Valley. It headed out from Nasirabad, the hometown of Baba Jan, towards Aliabad on bikes and vehicles with participants carrying banners and placards.
Baba Jan and at least 11 others have spent the greater part of the last four years in various jails in G-B.
In August 2011, police opened fire at a group of protesters in Aliabad, Hunza. The protesters demanded compensation for land washed away by the formation of Attabad Lake. They were among the 25 families which—out of 457 families—had not been compensated.
The police allegedly fired to clear Karakoram Highway for Chief Minister Mehdi Shah’s convoy. Afzal Baig, 22, and his father Sherullah Baig were shot dead in the shooting. As a result, riots erupted and enraged protesters allegedly torched a police station and other government offices. A police station in Aliabad was also looted.
In the days that followed, police registered cases and arrested over a hundred people. A judicial enquiry was also conducted but the report was never made public.
Jan’s counsel Advocate Ehsan Ali said the arrest and subsequent conviction of his client and others was only an exercise in “pick and choose” as the mob consisted of thousands that day. Ehsan said the only crime of Jan and the others was organising demonstrations against the death of the father and son at the hands of the police. - The Express Tribune