A prisoner of climate change
LAHORE – Despite the pleas of the members of the Labour Party of Pakistan (LPP), there has been little response by any state authorities regarding the case of activist Baba Jan who gave himself up to the police. Baba Jan is a well known activist from Gilgit-Baltistan. The incident took place in August this year. Following this, supporters from the US have written to the Pakistani ambassador Hussain Haqqani, for an urgent intervention to secure the release of Baba Jan and five other political prisoners currently detained.
Baba Jan is a leader of both the LPP and the Progressive Youth Front (PYF) in the region. According to details, during a peaceful demonstration on August 11, 2011, by local residents who were demanding compensation for the devastating landslide and flood in the valley of Hunza in 2010, the police opened fire on protesters. As a result, two demonstrators were killed, including 22 year old Afzal Baig, and his father, 50 year old Sherullah Baig.
Farooq Tariq, member of the LPP and a human rights’ activist says that about 458 families were affected by the devastation brought about by climatic change. However after several efforts, he says, the government was forced to give compensation of Rs 400,000 to affected families but 25 families were ignored. The 25 families went to protest when the Chief Minister Mehdi Shah was visiting the area. However, police opened fire on DSP Babur’s order, killing the father and son.
“This enraged the people who began to resort to breaking public property and violent protesting. Baba Jan discouraged them from doing this, at that time, but in any case, the matter did not mellow down, and during this time, no administration was present,” describes Tariq. “Afterwards these families were also paid Rs300,000 to placate them, but during the next month about 70 people were arrested, fake FIRs were filed, and all of them nominated Baba Jan and implicated him for ‘terrorism’, and ‘vandalism’.” The letter by US supporters to Haqqani quotes that Baba Jan gave himself up to the authorities otherwise he would have gone ‘missing’.
However, Baba Jan was removed from jail and taken to an undisclosed location and tortured for two days.
“We are simply telling the authorities to remove these fake cases against him,” says Tariq. “This man is a wonderful speaker, a very powerful activist who stands up for human rights. Why is he being persecuted by the law enforcement authorities and others?”
He says that Baba Jan is still under trial, but the matter has now become international. “We are being supported by various political parties and groups in Australia, Phillipines, Indonesia, Libya, Bangladesh, UK, US, France, and the Netherlands. Today, Baba Jan is not just seen abroad as a political prisoner. He is seen as a ‘prisoner of climatic change’, because all of this resulted from Hunza’s floods. Now even environment-based groups internationally, are supporting his release.”
Source: Pakistan Today