ہنزہ قومی مرکہ: حکومت سانحہ ہنزہ کی جوڈیشل انکواِئری رپورٹ منظر عام پر لائے | Hunza Qaumi Marka: Government should publish report of judicial inquiry into the Hunza tragedy
Nasirabad: Protest for the release of Baba Jan and his comrades; even women have come into the streets to demand justice | ناصرآباد: بابا جان اور ساتھیوں کی رہائی کیلئے احتجاج، خواتیں بھی سڑکوں پر نکل آئیں
Baba Jan is an honourable young man and if such honourable people did not exist, who would defend the country’s borders? If Baba Jan were in the Army, he would have been the first martyr
It is almost one year since the Aliabad tragedy, but the Chief Minister’s claim has proven to be a lie. He had promised that the judicial inquiry report would be published within 15 days.
Protesters demand repeal of ATA, release of political prisoners
Islamabad, July 29: The government is using Anti-Terrorism laws to suppress opponents and detain vociferous political activists. Members of progressive and leftist parties are being tormented and kept in jail without any proof.
These views were expressed by speakers today at a protests rally in front of the National Press Club, Islamabad. The protesters had come from Lahore, Faisalabad, Mutta, Swat and the twin cities, to demand release of detained political prisoners, including PYF leader Baba Jan, his companions and labor union leaders in Faisalabad.
The protesters were carrying placards inscribed with slogans demanding the release of Baba Jan, Fazal Illahi, Iftikhar Hussain and many other activists and political workers belonging to left-leaning political groups. They also demanded repeal of the Anti-Terrorism Act (read more about this law at http://www.fia.gov.pk/ata.htm).
The protesters had gathered on the call of Labour Party of Pakistan. They marched on a road around the Press Club building and staged a brief sit-in.
Hunza: Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters also gathered in Nasirabad, Baba Jan’s village, to demand release of the progressive youth leader. The protesters chanted slogans against the government for “involving Baba Jan in false cases” . They demanded immediate release of all members of the Progressive Youth Front.
The PYF activists had been detained last year after riots broke out in Hunza Valley in reaction to the killing of two protesting IDPs by the local police. The PYF activists were charged with leading the riots. They deny the charges and accuse the government of indicting them in false cases on political basis.
Report in Daily Baang e Sehr: Progressive parties hold rally for the release of Baba Jan and his comrades | بابا جان کی رہائی کیلئے ترقی پسند جماعتوں کی ریلی
Sub-heading: Speakers demand an end to human rights violations in Gilgit-Baltistan and the systematic abuse of the Anti-Terrorism Act against political activists
Express Tribune report on public rally in Islamabad: Protest rallies: Release of youth, trade union leaders sought
ISLAMABAD / GILGIT: Activists of progressive political parties, trade unions, youth and student organisations staged protest rallies in the federal capital and the picturesque Hunza valley of Gilgit-Baltistan against the incarceration of a youth leader and his comrades in Gilgit jail and trade union leaders in Punjab jails.
They demanded their release and withdrawal of false cases against them. They also expressed their concern over the retrenchment of thousands of workers from various organisations.
In Hunza, over 1,000 people including 300 women gathered at Nasirabad, Hunza to vent their anger at the highhandedness and brutalities of the security agencies against Baba Jan, chief organiser of Progressive Youth Front (PYF), activists Iftikhar Hussain and others in Gilgit Jail who have been detained for about a year.
Wajid Ali, a resident of Nasirabad, told The Express Tribune by phone that the protesters also marched on the Karakoram Highway later in the day to highlight the illegal detention of the leader.
Jan, along with other comrades, was arrested last August for protesting against the killing of a disaster-affected youth and his father at the hands of police during a protest rally demanding payment of compensation to the families displaced by Attabad Lake in Hunza.
The rally was addressed by leaders, notables and women condemning the authorities for implicating the detained leader in false cases, said Mumtaz Ali, another activist.
Jan’s lawyer, Advocate Ehsan Ali, said that his client’s bail plea had been accepted and he was expected to be released earlier this month, but was implicated in yet another case by the anti-terrorism court for “inciting sectarian hatred and promoting anti-government sentiments among prisoners”, a charge he termed another tool to incarcerate the leader.
In Islamabad, the protesters though only over a hundred in number managed to put up an impressive show as majority of them included labourers. Their union leaders were implicated in what they termed fake cases and put behind bars apparently ‘for raising voices for the rights of workers, labourers and youth’.
“Baba Jan has become a symbol of resistance,” commented one of the participants. The establishment wants to suppress progressive voices in the sensitive region, he added.
Members and leaders of three left wing parties — Labour Party Pakistan (LPP), Workers Party Pakistan (WPP), Awami Party Pakistan (APP) — accompanied by activists of youth, students, Jammu and Kashmir Peoples National Party (JKPNP) Jammu and Kashmir National Students Organisation (JKPNSO), workers belonging to workers’ union from Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Gujranwala, Mardan and Swat converged in the capital to raise their voice and offer an alternative agenda for change.
They demanded the immediate release of Baba Jan along with other labour union leaders arrested on similar charges in different cities.
“It has become a sort of struggle between the ruling elite and the working class,” said Sarwar Bari, a social activist and leader of APP. Baba Jan and other leaders are not being released for fears that they have challenged the system which is brutal for the working class, he explained.
Men and women holding banners and red flags gathered outside the National Press Club and raised slogans demanding the immediate release of leaders. Members of Labour Qaumi Movement (LQM) Faisalabad travelled to Islamabad in a hope to secure release of their six leaders, who were languishing in jail for over two years.
“They were implicated in false cases of terrorism and other criminal activities by the industrial owners of the power looms and put in jail,” said an activist of LQM, who blamed the Pakistan Muslim League-N ruling Punjab government for the arrests and subsequent sentence of the union leaders, which included Akbar Kamboh, Fazal Ilahi, Rana Riaz and three others.
“Together they were sentenced to 140 years in jail, can you believe it?” asked a former colleague of the arrested leaders, adding that none of the arrested men fired even a single shot.
When asked why he was taking was so much pain for the arrested men while he was not being troubled, he replied, “Who can guarantee I will not be troubled tomorrow or my children would not be harassed into cheap labour without their due rights.”
The participants dispersed peacefully after blocking the road in front of the press club for a few minutes and staging a demonstration for over an hour.
Those who spoke to the participants included LPP chief Tariq Farooq, WPP leader Dr Asim Sajjad, APP leader Dr Hassan Nasir, National Federation of Trade Unions leader Yousaf Baloch, NSF leader Aalia Amirali, journalist Abdus Sattar and others.
They vowed to continue a joined struggle against the exploitative system and for establishing a just and egalitarian society. They also vowed to resist privatisation plan and retrenchment of workers.
Pakistan: Political prisoner says ‘protests saved us from torture’
Two leaders of the Labour Party Pakistan and the Progressive Youth Front (PYF) narrowly escaped torture by a special interrogation unit due to prompt protests in Pakistan and around the world, Farooq Tariq, LPP national spokesperson for the LPP, told Green Left Weekly.
Baba Jan and four comrades were jailed last September for standing up for people’s rights in the Hunza Valley, in the remote province of Gilgit-Baltistan, after their villages and farmlands were flooded in 2010.
The prisoners have become known as the Hunza Five. They are seen by many around the world as political prisoners in the struggle over the global climate crisis.
After months in jail without trial and several rounds of torture and assaults, two of the five, Baba Jan and Iftikhar Hussain, are still being denied bail hearings. Amir Ali and Rashid Minhas were released on bail on July 2 and Sher Ali was released earlier.
When Baba Jan’s lawyer went to the magistrate with the bail application in July, the police inserted new charges under draconian “anti-terrorist” laws. This meant his case could be only heard by a special anti-terrorist court.
On July 19, a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) consisting of police and intelligence officials came to Jutial Jail, Gilgit, where Baba Jan was being held, to interrogate him and Hussain.
Fearing that the intention would involve to torture, other prisoners resisted the attempts to shift Baba Jan and Hussain out of the prison.
However the JIT returned the next night and snatched them away to an unknown location.
Demonstrations were rapidly organised in several cities and protests were fired off to Pakistani embassies around the world. Local newspapers reported the fears that the two political prisoners were being tortured by the “anti-terrorist police” unit in an undisclosed location. Even Radio Australia reported the story.
On July 23, more than 800 locals demonstrated in the Hunza Valley. They defied the intense fear stoked by authorities after they fired on protests last August.
The area is also under severe military clampdown and governed by draconian “anti-terrorist” regulations, which are not used against real terrorists.
This was the first mass protest in the valley for months. The elders of the area gave three days’ warning to the government to release Baba Jan or face a march to their offices.
“The younger brother of Baba Jan said they had expected only 50 to 100 to join the march and were awed by the numbers that turned out,” Tariq told GLW in an internet interview on July 25.
“A protest camp was organised at Nasir Abad, one of three main small towns of the Hunza valley. Originally it was planned to last just an hour, however, it remained a place for speaking against the imprisonment for Baba Jan for over six hours.
“More than 800 attended this camp and many spoke out in solidarity with the Hunza Five”
After this extraordinary protest, Baba Jan and his comrade were returned to the jail by the JIT.
They had been put under a lot of mental stress during their interrogation in a bid to pressure them into joining one of the parties that work with the government and to stop raising the rights of the people. When they asked Baba Jan what he thought of their suggestion, he told them that they should leave the territory as they no longer had any business there.
At this, the officers became enraged and roughed them up.
“I have spoken to Baba Jan since then,” said Tariq. “He told me that it was local and international pressure that ensured that they were not physically tortured, although they were kept in a dark cell.”
“He told me that out of 16 nominated persons from the jail in the latest case, he and Iftikhar were picked out by the JIT for interrogation. This was clearly a message that these left activists are being targeted.
“However, the immediate reaction all over forced the JIT to produce them and assure the judge that they were not being tortured.”
[Visit www.freebabajan.wordpress.com to sign an open letter and follow the campaign.]