Life Imprisonment: Supreme Appellate Court upholds ATC verdict against Baba Jan and companions

Gilgit: The life imprisonment sentence of AWP leader Baba Jan, and eight of his companions, was upheld by the Supreme Appellate Court of Gilgit-Baltistan on Thursday. Two of the three judges hearing the case upheld the Anti-Terrorism Court sentence against Baba Jan and his co-accused companions, while one judge decreed in their favor.

According to details, Justice Dr. Rana Shamim and Justice Javed Iqbal decreed in favor of the ATC verdict, while Justice Shehbaz Ali Khan had dissenting views.

The three-member bench of the Supreme Appellate Court was hearing an appeal filed by the state against the decision of the Chief Court of Gilgit-Baltistan to acquit Baba Jan in two cases registered against him and his companions.

Earlier, last year, the GB Chief Court had acquitted Baba Jan in two cases. The state had filed appeals against the Chief Court’s decision in the Supreme Appellate Court. Today, the Supreme Appellate Court set aside the GB Chief Court’s acquittal decision and restored Baba Jan’s life imprisonment sentence given by the Anti-Terrorism Court.

Eights other companions of Baba Jan, namely Iftikhar Hussain, Aleem, Irfan Ali, Shukurullah Baig, Sarfraz, Rasheed, Musa and Sher Khan, also have their life imprisonment sentence restored with the decision taken today by the Supreme Appellate Court of Gilgit-abltistan.

It is pertinent to note that Baba Jan is behind the bars after being convicted by an administrative judge of the Gilgit Anti-Terrorism Court. He and his companions stand convicted on charges of arson and rioting, damaging government facilities and attacking government officials.

A charged mob had torched police station and other government buildings in Aliabad Hunza on 11th August 2011 after police shot two IDPs – father and son, dead while they were protesting on the Karakoram Highway, demanding compensation for the land lost due to the Attabad Landslide disaster and the resultant damming of the Hunza River. The murder of the IDPs triggered violent protests in the valley and several government offices were attacked, torched. The blame for the arson was leveled against Baba Jan and his companions from the Progressive Youth Front.

Reacting to today’s verdict Baba Jan’s brother, Nasir, told Pamir Times that they will consult a team of lawyers and devise a future strategy.

Upholding of the ATC verdict, effectively, disqualifies Baba Jan from the Hunza by-election race, because convicted persons, under the law, cannot run for public offices.

The Chief Court had last month allowed Baba Jan to contest in the Hunza by-election after an appeal was filed before it by AWP leaders subsequent to the rejection of his nomination papers by a returning officer. The Chief Court had said that a man cannot be denied the right to contest elections just because he is behind the bars, awaiting hearing of appeals against his conviction.

The by-election in Hunza was scheduled to be held on the 28th of May. However, PPP’s leader Zafar Iqbal had filed an appeal in the Supreme Appellate Court against the decision to allow Baba Jan to contest the by-election, maintaining that he is a convict and hence stands disqualified. In this scenario the Supreme Appellate Court had taken a Suo-Moto notice, and the polling in Hunza was postponed indefinitely to allow the Supreme Appellate Court to decide the appeal filed by the state against the GB Chief Court’s decision to acquit Baba Jan and his companions.

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