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Hunza Protest Seeking Release Of Baba Jan, Other Political Prisoners Enters Third Day

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A sit-in staged by hundreds of people in Aliabad, Hunza, for the release of 14 political prisoners, including Awami Action Committee leader Baba Jan, has entered its third day.

The protest was called by Aseeran-e-Hunza Rihaee Committee, a body formed to push for the release of the incarcerated leaders who were jailed for life for ‘inciting people against the government’ in 2011.

The protesters are also holding placards demanding the release of the prisoners as they chant slogans in favour of the incarcerated political workers.

The participants of the sit-in have said that they will keep on protesting till the release of the political prisoners, who are languishing in jails on ‘baseless charges’.

‘Free 14 sons of Hunza’, chanted the protesters. They said Baba Jan and 13 other people had been sentenced to life imprisonment in 2011 for what they said raising voice for the rights of victims of the Attabad lake disaster, according to a news report in Dawn.

They also demanded the provision of justice to the family of a man and his son, who were killed during the alleged police firing in Aliabad.

Moreover, there has been a complete shutter-down strike in Hunza in solidarity with the families of the 14 incarcerated political workers.

Who is Baba Jan?

Baba Jan rose to fame after he led the Gilgit-Baltistan community, lobbying the government to compensate the displaced people of the valley and solve their problems in the aftermath of the devastating landslide that formed Attabad Lake, said an article written in Dawn newspaper.

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Hundreds of Gilgit-Baltistan villages were swept along with the crumbling mountain, and submerged into Hunza River, leaving over 1,000 displaced. However, due to the efforts of Baba Jan and relentless campaigning, a list of 457 families was compiled for compensation.

But 25 families that were left behind by the government resulted in another campaign. Dawn reports the struggle for the rights of these 25 families that turned violent and led to the eventual arrest of Baba Jan.

On August 11, 2011, in Aliabad, police resorted to baton-charge to disperse the protesters.  As things escalated, the police started using tear gas shells following by live bullets. Two unarmed protesters were killed – Afzal Baig 22, and his father, Sher Ullah Baig as he was trying to retrieve Afzal’s body, the article notes.

In the aftermath of these deaths, Baba Jan arrived to organise more protests and put pressure on the police to investigate the Baig killings. Subsequently, the police arrested Baba Jan and his fellow activists instead and charged them for violating Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Act.

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Naya Daur