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Giglit Baltistan’s Prisoner Of Conscience — Who Is Baba Jan?

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As Gilgit Baltistan gears up to vote its new government on Sunday, leaders of mainstream political parties are in the remote region for their election campaign. Apart from the many promises made by candidates during this campaign, different leaders have also raised their voice for a political prisoner Baba Jan, calling for his release.

Here is all you need to know about Baba Jan and why so many people of Hunza and GB had been protesting for his release for the last many years.

On 4th of January, 2010, a massive landslide hit a village in hunza called Aliabad. Subsequently, many people were displaced and drowned in floods which resulted in the accidental formation of tourist destination Atabad Lake. Even though Atabad lake is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Pakistan, the disastrous history of this lake is not known to most Pakistanis. After the catastrophe, protests erupted with villagers demanding compensation for the losses. The police tortured the environmental protesters and arrested them. Baba Jan was among those protestors who were booked under the colonial era Sedition law. In this politically motivated case, Jan was later sentenced to an imprisonment of 71 years. He had been in prison for more than 9 years now. Baba Jan recently made headlines after Asif Sakhi, a candidate backed by him announced his candidature in Hunza. Massive protests erupted in Hunza and GB for the release of Jan after this announcement. People staged a charged sit-in that continued for more than a week after which the government had promised to release Jan. However he still remains in prison.
Many prominent politicians including Pakistan Muslim League N (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto talked about Baba Jan’s release during the election campaign.

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