Free Baba Jan slogan echoes across GB, Pakistan

By Amir Roshan

A massive protest joined by mourners on the occasion of Chehlum of the martyrs of Karbala at Aliabad Hunza on October 8. Photo by Ali Ahmed

As sit-in and protest rallies for the release of Awami Workers Party (AWP) leaders Baba Jan, Aleemullah Balkhan, Iftikhar Karbalai, and 11 other imprisoned youth continue, more people pour into Aliabad to join the main dharna and express solidarity with the families and friends of the prisoners.

The sit-in that started at Aliabad, the main town of Hunza District on Monday, is now spreading to other districts of Gilgit-Baltistan and cities of Pakistan, grabbing the attention of national as well as international media.

Religious scholar Sheikh Muneer Hussain while addressing the Chehlum congregation of the martyrs of Karbala at Chalt, Nager said that Baba Jan is a hero of Gilgit-Baltistan who raised his voice for the oppressed people.

He criticized the government for setting free terrorists who killed hundreds of innocent people across Pakistan, in KP’s tribal areas and Balochistan and school children while keeping those innocent youth behind bars for nine years who speak for justice and rights of the people.

He warned that if the 14 prisoners were not released he will give a call for a protest march across GB.

Similarly, a chehlum procession joined the sit-in participants at Aliabad showing an unprecedented gesture of unity and chanted slogans for the release of Baba Jan and his friends.

Meanwhile, a protest was held in Lahore that was joined by the Nazneen, sister of Baba Jan, musician Niaz Hunzai, students from GB and leaders of Haqooq-Khalq Movement, AWP and civil society activists.

BNF founding chairman Nawaz Khan Naji addressed the sit-in participants at Aliabad Hunza on Oct 8. Photo: Ali Ahmed

On Friday, Balawaristan National Front (BNF) chairman Nawaz Khan Naji, PTI candidate from Ghizer-1, Zaffar Muhammad Shadimkhel, independent candidate Shakeel Ahmad, a PPP candidate Syed Jalaluddin, and other political activists participated in a protest at Chatorkhand, demanding the release of Baba Jan and other political prisoners.

Addressing the protesters, Mr Naji reiterated his party’s support for the prisoners’ families, saying he had always raised his voice in support of people of other regions.

“Today you must feel the agonies of the prisoners’ family members,” and express solidarity with them,” he added.

Youth and political activists of Nager Khan hold a protest for the release of Baba Jan and 13 other prisoners. Photo: Yawar Abbas

He asked the government to revamp the judicial system as, according to him, the Supreme Appellate Court is without a judge for the last three years and cases are piling up making the litigants suffer.

Earlier addressing a huge crowd at Aliabad Hunza amid rousing welcome and slogans, Mr Naji came down heavily on the government for denying justice to the prisoners of Hunza.

He highlighted the importance of Hunza from a historical perspective and demanded the government withdraw the FIR against all 14 prisoners.

Political and civil society activists led by Baba Jan’s sister Nazneen and niece hold a protest in solidarity with the Hunza sit-in for the release of the prisoners in Lahore on October 9. Photo by Haider Kaleem

The firebrand nationalist leader lauded the people of Hunza especially the women for standing up against injustices and for their rights.

At Chatorkhand Advocate Shakeel Ahmad said, “Baba Jan and his friends were punished for raising their voice for the voiceless people.

He also called on the government and the President of Pakistan to immediately release the political leaders.  

Zaffar Muhmmad also expressed solidarity with prisoners’ families and warned to fight the state repression if the government did not heed their demands, a protest will be launched from Ishkoman.

Syed Jalaluddin also demanded the government ensure the independence of the judiciary in Gilgit-Baltistan and release the prisoners immediately.

Traders, political and social activists hold a protest in solidarity with the Hunza sit-in for the release of AWP leader Baba Jan and 13 other prisoners at Sost, on the Pak-China border on Friday. Photo: Farman Baig

Protest at Sost

A protest rally and sit-in were also held at the Pak-China border town of Sost in Gojal that was participated by a large number of activists and leaders of different political parties, traders and youth.

The protest was organized by the Bazaar Association and joined by local leaders and activists including Raza Muhammad, a social activist, Nazir, a businessman from Nagar, Doulat Karim (PPP), Najeebullah (PTI), Asif Saeed Sakhi and Farman Baig (AWP) and Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) activists.

The protesters were holding placards inscribed with various slogans and the release of Baba Jan and other innocent political activists.

They warned of launching a long march from Sost to Aliabad if their demands were not met.   

On Thursday, protest rallies were also held at Chatorkhand, Nager and Skardu which were participated by political leaders, traders, and social and youth activists.

Lawyers’ strike call

Some political and lawyers’ bodies have given a call for protests in G-B and across Pakistan on Saturday.

AWP President Yousuf Mustikhan has given a call for a countrywide protest on October 10. The party national units have planned protests in Islamabad, Karachi, Hyderabad, Larkana, Sanghar, Multan, Faisalabad, Quetta, Buner, Malakand, Swat and other towns.

District Bar Association of Skardu has also given a call a second time for observing a strike on Saturday.

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