Participants of a conference here on Tuesday demanded an immediate end to repression on political and rights activists, suppression of the freedom of expression in Gilgit-Baltistan and withdrawal of cases instituted against activists on trumped up charges.
They also demanded the withdrawal of all draconian laws such as ATA and Cyber Crime Act from GB.
The conference was convened by the Awami Action Tehreek (People’s Action Movement) to take stock of the rising incidents of what it called human rights violation, harassment of progressive and nationalist parties as well as social media activists through draconian laws.
Ironically the mainstream ruling class parties did not attend the conference despite their commitment, Ehsan Ali Advocate, organizer of the conference said.
The conference through a resolution demanded an immediate release of social media activist Hasnain Ramal and other political activists and withdrawal of false terrorism charges against them.
It also demanded the withdrawal of Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) and other draconian laws from Gilgit-Baltistan which are being used arbitrarily against political and rights activists.
The conference demanded the GB government remove names of political and social activists from Schedule 4 and stop their harassment, unannounced ban on freedom of expression and struggle against status quo.
Hundreds of progressive and nationalist political activists and journalists including Baba Jan, Iftikhar Hussain, DJ Mathal, Hasnain Ramal others are behind bars under the ATA and Cyber Crimes Act.
The participants reiterated their resolve to continue the struggle for the human rights of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan.
It was decided to form a 16-member ‘Human Rights Protection Committee’ and contact all progressive and democratic parties to join hands to defend the human
and democratic rights of the people of GB, Ehsan Ali, Chairman of Revolutionary Socialist Party and the host of the conference said.
“The aim of organizing the conference was to highlight the rising incidents of harassment, arrests and torture of anti-status quo progressive and social activists,” Ehsan Ali said.
Speaking to The High Asia Herald by phone on Wednesday, the political-cum-lawyers’ leader who has been playing leading role in the fight at the political and legal fronts for the rights of the people of GB as well as the activists, for over two decades, said the other objective of organising the conference was to chalk out a joint plan of action for struggle against the suppression of the freedom of expression.
In the absence of strong democratic institutions, state institutions are misusing draconian laws such as ATA and Cyber Crime Act against political and social activists.
The recent case is the arrest of Hasnain Ramal, who is in the custody of the JIT since Aug 8 and being questioned for highlighting public issues and violation of basic rights of the people on social media. He is being asked to retract his statements and refrain from social activism.
He regretted the attitude of the so-called democratic mainstream parties for not attending the conference. Even the lawyers’ bodies stayed away from the event.
“I personally had contacted the leaders of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Muttahida Wahdatul Muslimeen (MWM), Jamaat-e-Islami (JUI-F), Jamiat Ulema Islam-F (JUI-F), Awami Workers Party (AWP) and other small groups and they had promised to attend the conference but none of them attended.
Responding to a question on the prevailing atmosphere of fear in the region, he blamed certain so-called nationalist organizations and sectarian proxies for this sorry state of affairs who provided an opportunity to the security institutions to crack down on genuine political activists and implicate them in false cases.
He, however, said that terrorism has never been an issue in GB. Hence there is no need of imposing anti-terror and cyber crime laws in the region.
He said that a follow-up meeting of like-minded parties will be called in near future to broaden the 16-member committee and launch a movement against the misuse of laws under the pretext of national security and CPEC. A conference will be organized to mobilise youth in Gilgit, Ali said.
The conference was attended by a large number of activists of progressive and nationalist parties, journalists, human rights and youth organizations.
Prominent among those who spoke at the conference were Ehsan Ali Advocate, President Supreme Appellate Court Bar Association, Nawaz Khan Naji, Chairman, Balawaristan National Movement of his own faction (BNF-N) , Sultan Madad, Engineer Amanullah, Shabbir Mayar, Gilgit Press Club’s secretary Qasim Shah, Nusrat Hussain, Advocate Zulfiqar, International Human Rights Organisation’s representative, Farooq Ahmed, Ali Jan, and Irshad Kazmi Advocate, representatives of Gilgit Union of Journalists, special people and poets.
The participants marched from the Palace Hotel to the Ittehad Chowk where Ehsan Ali and Subedar Naib Khan addressed the participants. They criticised the Gb government for victimising the opponents and progressive political and social activists.