who is Baba Jan

Who is Baba Jan? Hunza born leftist political activist

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Baba Jan is a leftist political activist in the Gilgit-Baltistan administrative territory of Pakistan who is serving a lifetime sentence. He is the former vice-president and now member of the Federal Committee of Awami Workers Party. He was born in Hunza Valley of Gilgit-Baltistan.

Baba Jan Saga

It all began in Gilgit-Baltistan, January 2010, when a climate-change induced a devastating mountain landslide into the Hunza River, causing the spontaneous formation of a lake, now known as Attabad Lake.

Hundreds of Gilgit-Baltistan villages were swept along with the crumbling mountain, and submerged into Hunza River, leaving over 1,000 displaced, with no access to the rest of Pakistan because of the damage done to the Karakoram Highway.

According to activists involved in the movement, things took a dramatic turn on August 11, 2011 in Aliabad, when the police used violent means to disperse the protesters. They began with a baton-charge but then progressed to release of tear gas, finally opening fire at the crowd. Two unarmed protesters were killed – Afzal Baig 22, and his father, Sher Ullah Baig as he was trying to retrieve Afzal’s body. In the aftermath of these deaths, Baba Jan arrived to organise more protests and put pressure on the police to investigate the Baig killings. But campaigners for Baba Jan related that facing pressure; the police arrested Baba Jan and his fellow activists instead and charged them for violating Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Act.

A Labour Party Pakistan press release states that Baba Jan has been treated brutally in jail and tortured cruelly: “Baba Jan was subjected to torture for three to four hours at a stretch: beaten with sticks, and his feet crushed under heavy boots for three days in a row. He was denied treatment for his many injuries, despite the orders of the court.”

“We will not go back till the political prisoners are not released,” said leaders addressing the crowd in Ali Abad, a town located about 100km from Gilgit.

A senior leader of Awami Workers Party Baba Jan, Aleem, Iftikhar Karbalai and nine others are currently serving life imprisonment at a jail in Gahkuch handed down by an anti-terrorism court for setting government property on fire during riots that erupted in 2011.

The AWP Hunza president Zahoor Ahmed urged human rights activists and democratic forces to support the political workers languishing behind bars.

Despite his incarceration, he contested for a seat in the 2015 Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly elections as the Awami Workers Party’s candidate for Constituency GBLA-6. He came in second place, losing out to Mir Ghazanfar Ali Khan of Hunza’s ruling family, who was backed by the party of Pakistani primeminister Nawaz Sharif, the Pakistan Muslim League (N). However Baba Jan garnered more votes than the other mainstream parties, including the Pakistan People’s Party and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.

In November 2015, Mir Ghazanfar Ali Khan was appointed by the Pakistani prime minister as the Governor of Gilgit-Baltistan, which made the GBLA-6 seat vacant. The by-election for the seat has been scheduled for 28 May 2016 and the Awami Workers Party announced that Baba Jan would again be its candidate for the constituency. On 30 April 2016, the returning officer rejected his nominations papers on the grounds that he was a convicted person serving a jail sentence.  However, on 4 May 2016, a court accepted an appeal filed by Baba Jan’s lawyers against the rejection of his nomination papers.

The supreme appellate court of Gilgit-Baltistan postponed the election for a period of three weeks to complete hearing of two cases pending charged against Baba Jan. The supreme appellate court uphold the decision previously made by Anti-Terrorism court. Baba Jan is now out of the race of by-elections in Hunza.

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