By Special Correspondent
GILGIT: An Anti Terrorism Court [ATC] on Thursday handed down life imprisonment to 12 accused including progressive leader Baba Jan for ransacking a police station and torching other government buildings and office record in Hunza valley of Gilgit - Baltistan.
Giving the benefit of bout, the ATC judge - justice Raja Shehbaz Khan of ATC 1 - exonerated at least five accused including Irfan Karim, Salman Karim, Ahmad Khan, Ghulam Abbas and Ameer Ali.
In his judgment, justice Raja Shehbaz stated that prosecution proved guilt of the accused Iftikhar Hussain, Irfan Ali, Baba Jan, Aleemullah Khan, Sher Khan, Rashid Minhas, Sarfraz, Musa Baig, Shukrullah Baig alias Mitto, Mehr Ali, Didar Ali and driver for torching and destroying property and attacking and hurting public servants. The other charges include ransacking arms and ammunition from police station. “I convict them to undergo rigorous imprisonment for life and impose a fine of Rs100,000/- on each convict,” read the judgment.
“The convicts inflicted a heavy loss to government by torching police station, two government vehicles and looting arms and ammunition.”
The incident occurred in August 2011 when police opened fire on a group of protesters in Aliabad who were demanding compensation for their land wrecked and inundated by the Attabad Lake. The protesters were among 25 out of 457 families who had not been compensated.
Police action was taken to clear the Karakoram Highway for Chief Minister Mehdi Shah, who was visiting the valley, to pass through. Afzal Baig, 22, and his father, Sherullah Baig were shot dead, as a result of which riots broke out and enraged protesters torched a police station and other government offices and also looted police station at Ali Abad.
In the days that followed, police registered cases and arrested over a hundred. A judicial inquiry was also conducted into the incident but the report was never made public.
Advocate Ehsan Ali, who is the counsel for Baba Jan and others, said the decision wasn’t ‘unexpected’ but said they would file an appeal against the decision in the upper court. “We were sure this was going to happen as courts in this region aren’t independent,” Jan told The Express Tribune.
Jan said the arrest and conviction of Baba Jan and others was ‘pick and choose’ as the mob was consisted of thousands of protestors that day.
“Jan and others ‘crime’ was that they had organised demonstrations against police firing that had killed a father and son for demanding their rights,” he said.
He questioned the government decision to not making the inquiry report public and claimed those [police officials] responsible for the violence were elevated instead of punishment.