By Shabbir Mir
GILGIT: He might be in jail for allegedly instigating a mob to resort to violence in Hunza Valley in 2011, but it is the mob now that is actively campaigning for Baba Jan to win a slot in the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly.
Although Jan, the vice president of Awami Workers Party (AWP), is behind bars serving a life sentence, he is contesting the polls. And AWP activists are rallying throughout the region to muster support for their leader’s campaign. Jan has been allowed by the Election Commission of Pakistan to stand for the elections scheduled for June 8.
Jan is contesting the polls for GBLA 6, a constituency in Gilgit where he is facing political giants like Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s Mir Ghazanfar, Pakistan Peoples Party’s Zafar Iqbal and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Izhar Hunzai.
The support from locals aside, AWP members from other parts of the country have also moved to Hunza to play their role for his success.
“We are witnessing incredible support from the youth,” said AWP Lahore chapter President Asim Sajjad.
According to the residents of Hunza, more than 50 supporters from Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad and other cities of the country have flocked to the valley to convince the public to vote for Jan.
“The fact that Jan is incarcerated is what is adding to sympathies towards him,” said Sajjad who is among the many members of the leftist party who have come to Gilgit-Baltistan to mobilise the public to vote for their leader. “The public rally of AWP in Gulmit was as good as that of PTI chief Imran Khan in the same area.”
Sajjad added locals are providing them free of cost logistical support and are also realising the challenges being posed by the potential rivals ahead of the polls on June 8.
AWP was formed in 2012 after three leftist parties merged – Labour Party Pakistan, Workers Party and Awami Party.
In August 2011, 25 out of the 457 families whose land was affected by the formation of Attabad Lake took to streets in Aliabad. Police wanted to disperse the protesters to clear Karakoram Highway for Chief Minister Mehdi Shah who was visiting the valley. Hence tear gas was used and gunshots were fired. During the firing Sherullah Baig and his son Afzal Baig were killed, further agitating the protesters who then torched government offices and looted a police station in Aliabad.
Police registered a case and arrested over a hundred suspects, including Jan. A judicial probe was conducted but the report was not made public.
Last year, Jan was sentenced to life imprisonment by an anti-terrorism court in Gilgit for ransacking police stations and torching government property in Hunza.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 6th, 2015.