Baba Jan, Pakistani Prisoner

Against the Current, No. 188, May/June 2017

Farooq Tariq

AWAMI WORKERS PARTY Workers Party Gilgit-Baltistan (GB, formerly known as the “Northern Areas” — ed.) regional leader and Federal Committee member Baba Jan is serving a lengthy term in jail. He is pictured here with AWP Hunza District party leaders (left to right) Muhammad Ramazan, Engineer Amanullah, Ikram Jamal, and Akhon Bai after appearing in a lower court in Hunza on Wednesday, March 8.

While this great son of the mountains is incarcerated for raising his voice for the rights of the people of GB and all working-class people of Pakistan, the stooges of imperialist neocolonial powers and some elements in the religious and communal institutions, at the behest of the Establishment, have once again launched a smear campaign against Baba Jan and his party.

Recently a retired army officer in his highly political speech at a community centre at Gulmit Gojal made baseless allegations against Baba Jan and AWP of “getting funds from foreign countries to sabotage CPEC” (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor).

For the last couple of years, religious institutions are being misused for political purposes especially against progressive radical politics. Last year during a by-election campaign, these religious institutions arranged a visit of Amin Hashwani, a business tycoon from Karachi, to the town of Hunza who leveled the same allegations. When he was confronted by the youth of Hunza and faced strong resentment from the community and AWP activists he had to cut short his visit and left the valley.

The AWP is a progressive, secular democratic party struggling for the rights of the working class, peasants, teachers, doctors, youth, students, women and oppressed nationalities. The pawns of the international imperialist powers have launched smear campaign against the party and its leadership.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in its report on GB issued last week criticized the government, law enforcement and intelligence agencies for “rampant misuse of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) by state institutions in GB.”

The report says that hundreds of individuals continue to languish in jails under ATA, and the law has been used extensively to suppress any voices raised for the rights of the people. According to HRCP’s report one of AWP’s prominent leaders in GB, Baba Jan is serving a 40-year sentence along with 11 other activists for highlighting the plight of the people displaced by the 2010 Lake Attabad landslide disaster.

The HRCP former chairperson also criticized harassment of nationalist activists. She said that we support development but not at the cost of fundamental rights, civil liberties and the environment. She advised the government to be realistic while praising and creating hype about CPEC: “Eulogize CPEC but do not make it a ‘national anthem,’” she remarked. The people of GB “don’t need any kind of certificate of patriotism from the Establishment or any government.”

May-June 2017, ATC 188