Release Baba Jan now!
By Amanullah Kariapper
On 13 Sept, he was dragged out of jail by the police and taken to an “interrogation cell” of theirs. Baba Jan’s lawyer, Advocate Ihsan Ali, fears that his client will also suffer the same fate of torture and intimidation that the term “interrogation” normally implies in the Pakistani law enforcement context. Based on his previous experience, Ihsan Ali fears that the ISI might be involved in the abduction of his client
Baba Jan’s “crime” was that he organized rallies and demonstrations against the killing by the police of two of the protestors who were demanding just compensation for every affectee of the Atta Abad Lake disaster.
The police opened fire on protesters when they were protesting against the government for not doing justice in the disbursement of compensation to the survivors. After the shooting of his young son, a father pleaded with the police not to use live ammunition against the protestors – however, the police shot him dead without warning. According to some reports, a third protestor was also killed in this incident.
Outraged by this heinous act of state terrorism, the local population attacked all visible organs of state coercion, burning the local jail, the DC’s office and residence, also the AC’s residence, beating up the policemen and sending 8 of them to hospital. The senior police officers, the DC & AC go into hiding, fearing the people’s wrath.
The hundreds of persons who protested these killings were brutalized by the law enforcement agencies including the police, Rangers and Northern Squad, a para-military force. These forces used live ammunition and tear gas to disperse the protestors. After the incident, instead of arresting the police officers involved in the killings, a crackdown started in which in the neighborhood of Aliabad 50 people were arrested under the Anti-Terrorist Act and 16 criminal cases were registered against Baba Jan alone. Six of the activists arrested are affiliated with the Labour Party Pakistan.
However, Baba Jan was protected by the community and after a month underground, he surrendered himself to an Anti-terrorist Court in Gilgit on the 8th of Sept, 2011. The judge refused to send him on police physical remand and Baba Jan was sent to jail on judicial remand. However, on the 13th of Sept, 2011, he was dragged out of jail by the police and taken to an “interrogation cell” of theirs. Baba Jan’s lawyer, Advocate Ihsan Ali, fears that his client will also suffer the same fate of torture and intimidation that the term “interrogation” normally implies in the Pakistani law enforcement context. Based on his previous experience, Ihsan Ali fears that the ISI might be involved in the abduction of his client – in which case, we have to consider the worst-case scenario that Baba Jan might join the ranks of the thousands of missing Pakistanis abducted by this agency. We have just heard from his counsel that Baba Jan was eventually produced for his scheduled hearing today at the Anti-terrorism Court in Gilgit. As we wait for news of the court’s decision, we are also informing our friends and supporters and organising for protests in Lahore and Karachi.
At present, a total of six activists, including Baba Jan, continue to be detained by the police and face a range of fabricated charges.
An encounter with Baba Jan and his colleagues can be quite a remarkable event in one’s political existence – this scribe met them a couple of weeks after the killings in Aliabad, when they were still on the run from the police. On the analysis side, what stood out was his astute reading of the motivations of the State. He and his comrades alleged that the ferocity of the government was meant as a warning to them: if the state could be brutal enough to mow down simple disaster affectees demanding their rights in an almost routine protest, imagine what it could do to them. They pointed to the 11 – 13 month long detentions in Chilas and Gilgit jails that some of their fellows have endured for demanding political representation at the federal level, i.e., in the Senate and National Assembly.
The other thing that was clear was their almost nonchalant courage in facing up to an oppressive regime, their willingness to take extreme risks on the path of truth and their burning desire that the real facts be given a fair hearing, without distortion, all over the country.
Labour Party Pakistan appeals to all human rights organizations, political parties, trade unions, youth and peasant organizations to take up the case of Baba Jan to save his life and to come forward to fight for the freedom of all six courageous activists currently detained.
Please contact Ihsan Ali, President Gilgit Baltistan High Court Bar Association and member of LPP federal committee (03462524792) for more information. Or contact Nisar Shah General Secretary, Labour Party Pakistan (0300 2147960).