By Umar Bacha
Now that candidates of different political parties have submitted nomination papers to the Gilgit Baltistan legislative assembly for the November 15 upcoming elections, the residents of Hunza have called a sit-in to demand for the release of 15 people who have been jailed since the past nine years.
The sit-in continued for a third day in central Hunza where protestors demanded the release of 15 political prisoners, who were awarded 70 years imprisonment by the Supreme appellate court GB in 2011.
Women, children, and the elderly also took part in the sit-in and established a day-night camp where they heard speeches by those leading the protest.
The speakers announced that they have unanimously decided that their candidates would boycott from upcoming elections.
Zulfiqar Burcha, who is a candidate of the AWP, says that there is only one agenda of the sit-in – to keep their protest alive until the government releases the political prisoners.
Burcha reminded of the incident in 2011 after which everything unfolded.
“A father and son who were demanding compensation after their home was destroyed in the Attabad Lake floods were murdered,” he said. “Following the murders which shook the entire community, there was an incident of government structures and assets being burnt in protest, and the police nominated 14 persons declaring them all responsible for damaging public assets without, any proof,” he said. He added that he thinks that it was an act of defaming the state and the country, that such a case was made against only 14 specific people who supposedly held the entire Hunza area hostage.
“The government should release them as they are innocent and take action against those who are actually responsible for the act,” he said.
One of the prisoners for whom there have been huge protests time and time again is Baba Jan who was a political activist of the AWP. On Thursday, Election Commission of GB rejected Baba Jan’s nomination papers for polls, however Asif Saeed Sakhi will be contesting elections from GBLA-6.
His sister Jahan Ara, says that after the police took them the family had been anticipating their release in a couple of days but it not happen.
“We have heard that two of the 14 are expected to be released soon but we will not end the sit-in until the government releases all the prisoners,” she said. “For this we will hold a sit-in in Gilgit too.”
She says that the district administration and caretaker government representatives had held meetings with them but had failed to convince them, however, this time the sit-in is backing by the Pakistan People Party, and its candidates have joined hands with them.
Zahor, the president of PPP Hunza, and an election candidate says he won’t contest the elections unless the release of their local youth from prison. He has requested all 29 candidates who have nominated forms for elections to withdraw from the polls in protest.
The 14 political prisoners were charged in different cases including 7 ATA for allegedly setting a government structure on fire including a police station, an SHO residence etc.