With reporting by Abdul Rehman Bukhari
(Final update at 1:03, 26 September 2014: Three absconding convicts, out of the 12, have been sentenced additionally for 10 years each in prison, for not surrendering themselves to the police.)
Gilgit, September 25: An Anti-Terrorism Court in Gilgit today sentenced twelve people, including Progressive Youth Front leader Baba Jan, to life in prison. They will spend 40 additional years in prison, besides paying 500,000 rupees in fines, according to the verdict announced this morning. Moreover, the convicts’ properties and earnings will be used to reconstruct buildings damaged and assets put on fire on 11th August 2011 in Aliabad, Hunza. Three accused were declared absconders and they were sentenced to additional imprisonment for ten years each, according to the verdict’s documents obtained by Pamir Times.
According to details, Judge Shahbaz Khan of the Anti-Terrorism Court Gilgit today announced the verdict of a case registered against 17 people on charges of attacking, looting and torching government buildings in Aliabad on 11th August 2011. Enraged mobs had attacked and vandalized government buildings in Aliabad on 11th August after police killed two unarmed Internally Displaced People (IDPs), father and son, belonging to the disaster hit Ayeenabad village of Gojal Valley, upper Hunza.
The firing incident occurred when a group of IDPs, unable to get cash promised by the government from a local bank, had blocked the road and were protesting on the Karakuram Highway that day. The Chief Minister of Gilgit-Baltistan, Syed Mehdi Shah, was scheduled to visit the region and the police were forcing the protesters to clear the road for his motorcade.
Hot words were exchanged between the police and the protesters, leading to a small brawl and stone-pelting. This was followed by straight firing by the police (videos and photographs of which are available with different media outlets), leading to the death of two people. Three people also sustained injuries.
The shooting was followed by riots and thrashing of police officials. Building and vehicles were stormed and put on fire by the angry mobs. Several dozens of people were rounded up later by law enforcers and cases were registered against them on the charges of terrorism, damaging public properties, looting and other counts. Some of the accused, including Baba Jan and Iftikhar Hussain, have already spent more than a year each in prison. Baba Jan is also a leader of the Awami Workers’ Party (AWP), a leftist political group working at the national level.
Thirteen of the 17 accused appeared in the Court today, while three have been declared absconders. The police had failed to arrest Baba Jan till this report was last updated at around 1:20am (26 September 2014).
Police officials, however, told this correspondent that vigil had been increased on the entry and exit points across Gilgit-Baltistan region, to ensure arrest of Baba Jan, according to the court’s orders.
The court released five people, including Irfan Karim, Salman Karim, Muhammad Khan, Ghulam Abbas and Amir Ali, honorably acquitting them of the charges.
According to the verdict, nine of the 12 convicted people will spend their lives in prison. They will spend additional 40 years in prison, in lieu of various offences mentioned in the verdict, and pay 500,000 each in penalties on different counts.
The 9 people sentenced for life today are: Iftikhar Hussain son of Muhammad Ishaq, Irfan Ali s/o Arman Shah, Baba Jan s/o Abdullah Baig, Aleemullah Khan s/o Taighoon Shah, Sher Khan s/o Hamadullah Baig, Rashied Minhas Anees s/o Abdul Mateen, Sarfaraz s/o Ghulam Musa, Musa Baig s/o Abdul Rehman and Shukrullah Baig s/o Amanullah.
The absconders, who, in addition to life imprisonment, have also been sentenced for 10 years each for absconding, include Meher Ali s/o Farman Ali, Deedar Ali s/o Ameer Ali and Nasir s/o Ghulam Rasool.
It is pertinent to note that so far no action has been taken against the police officials who shot the two IDPs dead. DSP Babar, the officer in-charge at the spot, was promoted to the rank of SP and retired a couple of years ago.