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“Free Baba Jan,” Pakistanis demand release of activist illegally held behind bars for 6 years in occupied Gilgit-Baltistan

Baba Jan was arrested along with 11 others on charges of terrorism and murder. He is the longest-serving political prisoner in occupied Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan.

On Friday, Pakistanis took to Twitter to demand the release of activist Baba Jan who has been serving sentence behind prison bars for 6 years now. Reportedly, he is the longest-serving political prisoner in occupied Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan.

In the aftermath of a mountain landslide into the Hunza river in Gilgit-Baltistan in January 2010, more than 1000 inhabitants of the occupied territory were displaced. It was Baba Jan who then led a campaign, demanding compensation for those whose homes were destroyed due to the calamity. As a result of his continuous protests, the Government of Pakistan finally decided to compensate the victims. However, about 25 families out of 457 were yet to be compensated.

Baba Jan charged for terrorism

The protests for compensation intensified in August 2011 and the police tried to curb the growing dissent with an iron hand. Two people, namely, Afzal Baig and his father Sher Ullah Baig, were killed in police firing. The news of their killing had spread like a wildfire, and this culminated into increased incidents of violence, rioting and arson. The police then charged Baba Jan and 11 others on charges of terrorism and killing Afzal and Sher Ullah Baig.

He has been behind bars since 2014. In the succeeding year, he also contested elections from jail premises. Even though he came runners-up, a report noted, “His absence from the electoral campaign weighed heavier than the combined presence of all the other candidates and their state backers.”

Support pours in for the Gilgit-Baltistan activist

Voicing support for Baba Jan, Pashtun leader Ali Wazir tweeted, “Baba Jan and his comrades have been imprisoned in baseless political cases for several years. It may be recalled that Baba Jan was fighting for the rights of his area in Hunza, Gilgit-Baltistan State institutions always want to keep powerful voices like Baba Jan in captivity.”

A Twitter user, Maria, highlighted the lack of freedom of speech and expression in Pakistan-occupied Gilgit Baltistan. She tweeted, “Over and over again, this state punishes those who possess any form of critical consciousness, it silences those who amplify the voices of the public, it hunts down those who stand against injustices. This state has failed Baba Jan, and it has failed us all.”

Other users pointed out how anti-terror laws were misused in Gilgit-Baltistan by the Pakistani regime to curb political dissent. To several Pakistani netizens, Baba Jan has been the voice of the voiceless and has defended the rights of the poor.

POK activist Tanveer Ahmed tortured by security agencies

Earlier, the Pakistani security agencies had arrested and tortured activist Tanveer Ahmed after he removed the Pakistani flag from Maqbool Bhat Shaheed Chowk, Dadyal in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. He was then manhandled and tortured by the Pakistani agencies. In a video that went viral online, the security forces were seen forcibly dragging Tanveer Ahmed on the ground. He was then coerced into a law enforcement vehicle while onlookers watched his ordeal. Following his unconstitutional arrest, the people of Dadyal hit the streets in large numbers and demanded his immediate release.

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