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Pakistan: Politics dictates justice in Gilgit Baltistan as socialists sentenced to jail on trumped up terrorism charges
By Farooq Tariq
June 13, 2016 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Awami Workers Party -- On 9th June 2016, the Supreme Appellate Court of Gilgit Baltistan sentenced Baba Jan and 11 other political activists to 40-year prison terms in a case based on trumped up charges of terrorism, rioting and assault.
The court was hearing the state’s appeal against the GB Chief Court’s decision to acquit Baba Jan and others of these charges. The Chief Court had set aside Baba Jan and others’ conviction in the matter by an anti-terrorism court in September, 2014.
Their ‘crime’ was that they had raised their voices for the thousands of families affected by the massive landslides of 2010. The landslides had caused an artificial lake in the Attabadarea of Hunza in 2010, rendering homeless thousands of families. Baba Jan and other activists had mobilised the people of the region, holding scores of demonstrations, to seek fair compensation and social support for these families.
Political prisoner Baba Jan.
By Farooq Tariq, general secretary Awami Workers Party, Pakistan
June 11, 2015 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- It was one of best votes for any left candidate during an general election held in Pakistan, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan for decades.
Imprisoned Baba Jan, candidate of Awami Workers Party (AWP), won 4641 votes and came second during the Gilgit Baltistan legislative assembly election held on June 8, 2015.
The ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) candidate got 8245 votes and won the seat. The winning candidate is the former ruler of the Hunza estate who had with billions of rupees at his disposal.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which won the seat in the 2009 election, trailed behind Baba Jan with 3201 votes, while the newly established bourgeois party of cricketer Imran Khan, Tehreek Insaaf (Justice Movement), was in fourth position with 2291 votes. The religious Shia party Majlis Wahadat Muslimeen (MWM) came fifth with 1041 votes, and the candidate of the party of former dictator General Musharaf, the All Pakistan Muslim League, was last on 254.
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By Farooq Tariq, Lahore
May 25, 2015 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Baba Jan, a federal committee member of the Awami Workers Party (AWP), is contesting the election for the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly seat (Hunza-6) from behind bars. He is in jail serving a life sentence handed down by an anti-terrorism court last year for raising his voice against police brutality and for the rights of Atabad disaster hit people.
This is the first time in the history of Gilgit-Baltistan, a disputed territory administered by Pakistan, that an election campaign has been run from prison..
Elections for the 34-seat rubber-stamp assembly is going to be held on June 8, 2015. The provincial election commission’s decision to allow him to contest the poll has surprised many and triggered an enthusiasm among the youth, who consider Baba Jan a symbol of resistance.
Baba Jan and his group had boycotted the last general elections in 2009. The Pakistan People’s Party won the seat but has lost most of its credibility during its five years in power, because of corruption.
Baba Jan addressing displaced villagers in Hunza Valley in 2010.
By Haseeb ur Rahman
September 21, 2013 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- In January 2010, a terrible disaster unfolded in the Hunza Valley in Gilgit Baltistan (a formerly self-governing territory occupied by Pakistan since 1948) when a massive landslide blocked the Hunza River and formed a gigantic 19 kilometre-wide lake that submerged four villages. Some 25 people lost their lives and 6000 people were displaced.
These internally displaced people (IDPs) were moved to the towns of Gilgit and Hunza. Pakistan's PM and other officials visited the IDPs in Hunza and promised compensation. When, more than a year later, people took to the streets in protest for not getting the promised compensation, the police killed a man and his son in broad daylight by opening fire on the peaceful protest. A riot followed.
In that riot, 25 demonstrators were injured. When Progressive Youth Front leader Baba Jan and his comrades protested against this brutality, they were also arrested. Most of those arrested were released soon after but Baba Jan along with four of his companions were kept. They were tortured and beaten up brutally.
Following an international solidarity campaign, Baba Jan was released after a year in detention but his companions were kept in jail.