GILGIT: A local court in Gilgit on Thursday granted pre-arrest bail to 19 nationalist leaders booked under treason charges a day earlier.
Taruf Abbas and Mumtaz Nagri, among others, were granted bail by an additional sessions court in Gilgit after they submitted an appeal through their lawyers Ehsan Ali and Amjad.
The nationalist leaders had earlier allegedly spoken against the state for keeping Gilgit-Baltistan deprived of constitutional rights over the past six decades. They delivered the speeches at a seminar titled G-B in the Light of Kashmir Dispute, organised this week by Karakoram National Movement (KNM) and All Parties National Alliance (APNA), an alliance of various parties having representation from Kashmiri parties.
“The situation is alarming for democratic forces,” human rights activist Israruddin Israr said on Thursday, referring to the cases which were registered under sections 124-A, 123-A and 34 of the Pakistan Penal Code. “This is political victimisation which has increased in recent years, especially against democratic forces,” he told The Express Tribune.
Previously, Israr said, FIRs were registered for sedition (124-A) against nine political and human rights activists because they had participated in a protest rally and delivered speeches against political victimisation of Baba Jan and others.
Jan, vice president of Awami Workers Party (AWP), was handed a life term by an anti-terrorism court last year along with 11 others for torching government property and ransacking a police station during riots in Hunza back in 2011. Jan refuted the allegations.
“Recently, the same case was registered against a leader of Awami Action Committee Dr Zaman because he criticised the local administration,” said Israr, claiming freedom and right to speech, assembly and protests are denied in G-B. “This has frustrated the masses in a region already deprived of constitutional rights since 1947,” he added.
Interim Minister for Information Inayatullah Shumali said the cases are being pursued. “There are reports these activists have made some controversial speeches in the seminar,” said Shumali, who himself was the head of a nationalist party before being part of the interim government. “But we are looking into the case in detail to make a decision.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 27th, 2015.