Baba Jan, Iftikhar Hussain, Amir Ali, Ameer Khan and Rashid Minhas are all political prisoners who have been illegally detained in the northern areas of Pakistan for over 8 months.
On the 28th of April, police and army agents entered their prison cell and whisked them to an unknown location. They reappeared several hours later after being badly tortured. Baba Jan is suffering several fractures and medical treatment is being denied to him. The life of the 5 activists is at serious risks.
An international campaign of solidarity with Baba Jan and his comrades has been launched to demand their immediate release as well as the revocation of the fake charges that are being held against them.
In January 2010, a mountain collapsed into Hunza River and created what is now termed the Attabad Lake. As the lake formed, village after village was submerged. In total, over 1000 were displaced and over 25,000 were cut off from the rest of the country (the lake had destroyed the one road that connects the area to the rest of Pakistan). The plight of Gilgit-Baltistanis was ignored. Baba Jan, an activist of Labour Party of Pakistan, toured the country lobbying for the government to drain the lake and create transport facilities for the affected. The Pakistan Peoples Party government acted too late. The lake is now a permanent feature of the area. To off-set the protests of the displaced, the government promised compensation.
For some, compensation never arrived. An official list of those who were to receive compensation named 457 families. However, 25 of these families did not receive their compensation. Allegedly, the compensation, instead, went to families who were sympathizers of the Pakistan Peoples Party.
On 11th August around 200 people protested for the rights of the 25 families as the Chief Minister of Gilgit-Baltistan, Mehdi Shah, was visiting the town of Aliabad. The police, instructed to remove the protestors by any means, started with a baton-charge, then used tear gas before opening fire with live ammunition. Their first victim was Afzal Baig, a 22 year old student. Then, when Baig’s father tried to retrieve the body of his son, he too was shot. Both died. The valley erupted and a police station was burnt down by the protestors.
Baba Jan arrived 6 hours later. He organised the protesters and they were promised an investigation and firm action against the police officers responsible for the killing. The protesters waited for the government to act.
It acted a week later. Arrest warrants were issued for numerous protestors including Baba Jan. While most of those arrested have been released on bail, Baba Jan and 4 activists remain behind bars.