After nearly a decade of unlawful imprisonment by Pakistan government, political activist Baba Jan has finally been released. Baba Jan's arrest had sparked a global controversy, with protests in Gilgit-Baltistan for his immediate release as recent as September this year. Baba Jan, who was serving life imprisonment in Damas jail in district Ghizer, was released on Friday after 9 years.
Local reports also said that Iftikhar Hussain Karbalai was also released along with 11 wrongly convicted prisoners following the completion of the election process in Gilgit-Baltistan. Sources cited by Pakistan Today said that the Pakistan government and protestors of Hunza had reached an agreement for the release of political prisoners on the condition that they would be freed only after the completion of the election process.
Who is Baba Jan and why was he arrested?
Baba Jan is a political activist from Hunza and a member of Awami Workers Party. Baba Jan was serving life imprisonment along with others after being convicted by an anti-terrorism court over the mass demonstration against the government's silence in the Attabad incident that left thousands homeless. The massive landslide blocked Hunza river and submerged several villages in January 2010.
In 2011, as protestors had blocked then CM Syed Mehdi Shah's path, police opened fire, which killed a man and his son.This sparked mass violence in the Hunza Valley, as angry protestors torched police stations and government buildings. Following the incident, Baba Jan, among others, was arrested and allegedly tortured and charged under the anti-terrorism act.
During his imprisonment, Baba Jan contested for a seat in the 2015 Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly elections and secured the second highest votes, beating major parties like Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. But his candidacy was rejected in 2016 for the GBLA-6 vacancy.
Now, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is set to form a government in Gilgit Baltistan after securing a majority in the Legislative Assembly. According to a notification by Chief Election Commissioner Gilgit-Baltistan Raja Shahbaz Khan, PTI was declared successful in 10 seats, independent candidates won seven seats, PPP obtained three, PML-N won two, whereas JUI and MWM won one seat each.