Hunza 11/8: One year of injustice

11th of August 2012 marks completion of one year of the Hunza tragedy in which police officials had opened fire on a group of internally displaced protesters in Aliabad, injuring three people. The protesters, affectees of the Attabad landslide disaster, were agitating against delays in payment of compensation money. The police opened fire after failing to disperse the protesters from the Karakoram Highway, through which the Chief Minister, Mehdi Shah, was scheduled to travel.

Two of the injured, Sher Afzal and Sherullah Baig, later succumbed to their injuries. People say that Sherullah Baig was shot by the police when he came forward to help his son, Sher Afzal, who had already sustained a bullet injury.

The public’s outrage could not be controlled. Thousands of people came out on the roads and torched public buildings, vehicles and thrashed police officials. The protests spread across the country, with residents of GB based in different cities coming out in large numbers to register their anger against the brutality of police.

The political leadership stepped forward and helped control the situation by demanding judicial investigation of the incident. Copies of FIR were waved in front of thousands of people by GB Law Minister, Wazir Shakil, telling them that cases had been registered against the police officials. Some accuse the Law Minister of showing fake FIRs to the people.

After the public outrage cooled down, the police and other law enforcing agencies sprang into action and registered hundreds of cases, under Anti Terrorism Act, against residents of Aliabad, Karimabad, Nasirbabad, Shishkat, Hyderabad and several other adjacent villages, on the charges of arson and damaging public property. Hundreds of people were detained, including workers of the Progressive Youth Front.

The Supreme Appellate Court of Gilgit – Baltistan ordered judicial investigation of the incident. A report was compiled subsequently and shared with the government and administration officials. Nothing is known of that report. The Law Minister, once, slipped his tongue in front of journalists, telling them that the judicial investigation had found the police officials guilty of murder.

The report was never made public. No wonder that people have started believing that the government is trying to protect the criminals by hiding the report, at the expense of justice and rule of law. Instead of making the investigation public and punishing the culprits, the government has promoted the main accused, DSP Babar, to the rank of SP and the shooter is free.

The  detained people were later released, gradually, save for political activists of the Progressive Youth Front, including their leader, Baba Jan. A court in Gilgit had accepted bails of Baba Jan and his party workers and ordered their release but new cases were registered against them, to keep them imprisoned.

Families of Sherullah Baig and Sher Afzal, as well as the detained political workers, are still suffering due to the lack of justice. The Courts are silent. The bureaucrats are tight-lipped and the public representatives do not like being asked questions about this particular ugly incident.

It seems that only Sher Afzal and Sherullah Baig did not lose their lives on 11th August 2011. Justice was also a casualty.

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