Demand for the release of Hunza’s political captives gained momentum

Demand for the release of Awami Workers Party leader Baba Jan and 10 other workers gained momentum on social media.

Voices has been becoming loader from youth forums and various social circles for the release of Hunza’s political prisoners. Leading intellectuals and civil society in Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan’s left have long been calling for the release of Hunza’s political prisoners, but also for internal autonomy for Gilgit-Baltistan.

The families of the political prisoners made demands to President Arif Alvi and former Chief Justice Saqib Nassar. Despite this, no transparent judicial inquiry was held and no practical steps were taken to secure their release.

Who is Baba Jan? And what is the real issue of Hunza’s political captives?

Baba Jan, from Hunza District, Gilgit-Baltistan, is a member of the Federal Committee of Pakistan’s left-wing political party, the Awami Workers Party, and a political and social activist who advocates for human, political and social rights in Gilgit-Baltistan. He was imprisoned on a similar political issue.

Baba Jan and ten other political activists are serving life sentences in the Damascus prison in Ghizer district. He was sentenced by an anti-terrorism court to life in prison on baseless charges of participating in a protest in Aliabad Hunza on August 11, 2011 against the killing of a victim of the Attaabad tragedy and his son in a police firing.

At Karakoram Highway on January 4, 2010 during the scheduled visit of the then Chief Minister Mehdi Shah, at which police fired tear gas and bullets to disperse the protesters, killing two protesters. In response, the people of Hunza staged massive demonstrations in several towns in which several government buildings and police stations were set on fire. Despite the fact that Baba Jan was not present at the protest site, he was convicted by an anti-terrorism judge and sentenced to life imprisonment along with 10 other youths.

In April 2015, the Chief Court acquitted him. But four days before the by-election for the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly seat in Hunza, the Supreme Court of Appeal upheld the ATC’s decision on May 25, 2016, to prevent Baba Jan to contest from behind bars.

Gilgit-Baltistan Youth, Human Rights and Political Rights Organization “YAM-Young Activists Moment”, NSFGB, Baltistan Students Federation and other civil society and humanitarian and political organizations Rights activists have expressed solidarity with Baba Jan and other prisoners and their families.

Leaders of the Awami Workers Party, Gilgit-Baltistan Youth, Young Activists Moment and Gilgit-Baltistan residents living abroad warned that if they were not released, they would launch a national and international protest campaign.

The leadership of Young Activists Moment and AWP said that Baba Jan has not committed any crime. He is being punished for his struggle for the rights of the working class and the poor of Gilgit-Baltistan. The charges against Baba Jan and all his other political prisoners carry no weight.

The Young Activists Moment and AWP leadership said, “In fact, Baba Jan is being punished for his popularity among the youth and politically conscious people in the GB and at large in Pakistan. His election campaign marked the victory of a people’s power that prevented him from winning the election directly through Hunza’s traditional elite and the conspiracies and coercive resources of the Pakistani state. The Supreme Court of Appeal has not yet constituted a full bench to hear his review petition for three years.We demand the Chief Justice of Pakistan to take notice of this injustice in Gilgit-Baltistan and his Order release. We also demand that the results of the judicial inquiry into the killing of protesters in Aliabad on August 11, 2011 be made public and that the police officers responsible for the killings be brought to justice.