Detained youth activist Baba Jan was finally released from jail on Monday, following the acceptance of his bail plea on Friday. He was received by youth and political activists outside the jail gate who raised slogans in his favour and vowed to continue struggle for the rights of the down-trodden people of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B).
“We are pleased to see him out of jail after a year,” said a party worker. An anti-terrorism court judge on Friday accepted his bail plea in the last of the cases registered against him by the authorities in August last year. Jan was taken from the district jail to the main market in a rally. “He is now free and we thank all those who expressed solidarity with him during his incarceration,” Ehsan Ali, his counsel, told The Express Tribune. “We are happy to see Jan out of jail,” Wajidullah, a spokesman for Progress Youth Front (PYF), said. He said Jan would be taken to Hunza on Tuesday to celebrate his release.
Jan was granted bail by the same court on June 27. However, he was remanded to police again on charges of “inciting sectarian hatred and promoting anti-government sentiments among prisoners”. Jan, who is the chief organiser of Progressive Youth Front (PYF), was among the nearly 100 people, including youth activists, arrested for allegedly ransacking a police station and torching government offices after the death of an internally-displaced man and his son.
On August 11 last year, the police opened fire on the internally displaced persons, triggering violent protest in the peaceful Hunza valley. The joint investigation team tortured him and his comrades for three days.
The protesters were seeking compensation for the loss of their hearth and homes in the wake of a landslide that hit Attabad on January 4, 2010, killing 19 people, blocking the Hunza River and forming a 23km long lake that submerged three villages upstream in Gojal, rendering around 500 people homeless and 25,000 stranded. The lake also disrupted communication and trade between China and Pakistan.
Senate Committee on Human Rights recently called the chief secretary of G-B to explain why the youth leader was tortured and kept in jail. Chairman of the committee, Senator Afrasiab Khattak reprimanded the chief secretary when he termed Jan as an anti-state activist, saying “he has heard a lot of these allegations and had been himself a victim of this kind of treatment.”
Progressive parties, student and youth organisations as well as human rights bodies, including Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, campaigned for the release of the 32-year-old activist who has become a symbol of struggle in G-B.
The story of Jan and his comrades once again came to the limelight in national media in July after they were shifted from their prison cell to another prison after being tortured.
Rallies were held in foreign countries including Indonesia, France, Switzerland and Australia demanding the immediate release of Jan. Prominent intellectuals like Noam Chomsky and Tariq Ali also endorsed the campaign by signing a petition. In G-B, the youth consider him as their ‘Che Guevara’.*Additional input by News Desk
Published in The Express Tribune, September 18th, 2012.