ISLAMABAD: Top leaders of the Awami Workers Party (AWP) have condemned the sentencing of Baba Jan and 11 others to life imprisonment by an anti-terrorism court in Gilgit and have demanded the withdrawal of cases against them.
In a joint statement on Sunday, AWP President Abid Hassan Minto, chairman Fanoos Gujjar and secretary-general Farooq Tariq said the court had ignored the fact that there was widespread unrest among the people of Hunza that boiled into a violent protest in 2011.
They said the public protest was in reaction to brutal action by the police in which a man and his son were shot dead in front of hundreds of protesters in Aliabad Hunza that triggered violent protests by residents which was a natural reaction. The victims were among the Attabad Lake disaster-affected persons who were protesting for compensation.
The AWP leaders said Jan and his activists participated in one such protest and persuaded people towards a peaceful struggle.
Jan and Iftikhar Hussain, among others, are political leaders and harbingers of peaceful struggling against exploitation and denial of basic national and democratic rights of the people in Gilgit-Baltistan.
During the party’s congress last week, Jan was re-elected as a member of the federal committee. The AWP leaders said Jan and his comrades’ conviction just two days before the party’s congress was a move that could have provoked the party workers to take any step. But scores of workers took part in the rally in Islamabad on September 28 and responded to the provocation by the court through peaceful means, proving that they believe in peaceful struggle, stated the party leaders.
They further said that anti-terrorism courts have seemingly failed to achieve the objectives for which they were established, as the misuse of anti-terrorism laws against political workers, especially trade union leaders and the working class, has become the norm. Terrorists are roaming freely while political workers and union activists are put behind bars for seeking their rights, they claimed.
The AWP leaders described Jan and his colleagues’ conviction as a murder of justice and vowed that the party will continue its constitutional, legal and political struggle for their release at the national and international levels.
They hoped that higher courts of G-B will take notice of the injustice by a lower court and do justice with the political activists.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 6th, 2014.