Pakistan frees left-wing activist in semi-autonomous north after nine years

In this undated photo, Baba Jan a political activist from the Pakistan´s semi-autonomous north address to a rally held by Awami Workers Party. (Photo Courtesy: Social Media)
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Updated 28 November 2020

Pakistan frees left-wing activist in semi-autonomous north after nine years

  • Baba Jan, a climate activist from Hunza Valley, was convicted by an anti-terrorism court for participating in political riots in 2011
  • In 2012 an international petition for his release was signed by leading left wing intellectuals, including Noam Chomsky, Tariq Ali

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has freed a political activist who was serving a life sentence in the country’s semi-autonomous north, part of the contested Kashmir region also claimed by India, his party told AFP Friday.
Baba Jan, a left-wing political and climate activist from the Hunza Valley in northern Gilgit-Baltistan, was convicted by an anti-terrorism court for participating in political riots in 2011 and lost an appeal against his life sentence in 2016.
Pakistani media reported his release came after authorities struck a deal with activists, on the heels of recent protests, to free Jan following the local elections completed on Friday.
“We are happy to announce that Comrade Baba Jan ... (has) been released today after more than nine years incarceration,” Ismat Raza Shahjahan, the deputy secretary of the Awami Workers Party, told AFP.
A second activist, Iftikhar Katbalai, was also released, she said.
A close friend of Baba Jan confirmed the news to AFP, calling it the “happiest day.”
Faizullah Faraq, a spokesman for the local Gilgit-Baltistan government, said Jan’s release had been ordered by a court under a review petition.
Jan has vocally protested what he and supporters describe as political, constitutional and human rights violations in the region, organizing rallies and demonstrations in protest.
He also protested the impact of climate change in Pakistan’s north, famed for its soaring mountains — including many of the highest in the world, such as K2, second only to Everest — and verdant scenery.
Analysts have previously warned that his continued imprisonment was fueling extremist and nationalistic views in the region.
Resentment has been building in Gilgit-Baltistan since Islamabad began mulling upgrading its constitutional status in a bid to provide legal cover to a multi-billion-dollar Chinese investment plan in the area.
Gilgit-Baltistan, which borders China and Afghanistan, is part of the Kashmir region which is not constitutionally part of Pakistan, and is also claimed by India.
Earlier this month Prime Minister Imran Khan angered India by declaring that it will provisionally become a full province of Pakistan. He did not provide a timeline for the move.
Any change in status would require a constitutional amendment. If finalized, it would make Gilgit-Baltistan Pakistan’s fifth province.
New Delhi condemned Khan’s announcement, saying it would “bring material changes to a part of Indian territory.”
Human rights organizations have long demanded the release of Baba Jan. In 2012 an international petition for his release was signed by leading left wing intellectuals, including Noam Chomsky, Tariq Ali and David Graeber.


Pakistani Twitter rejoices as archrival India beats Australia in cricket win for the ages

Updated 15 min 3 sec ago

Pakistani Twitter rejoices as archrival India beats Australia in cricket win for the ages

  • Pakistan and India are political foes and have one of the most intense sports rivalries in the world
  • Tuesday’s win by India was unequivocally cheered by Pakistani cricket fans who called it “one of the greatest test match wins of all time”

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani social media users rejoiced on Tuesday as India bagged an incredible three-wicket win in the fourth test decider against Australia.

India’s Rishabh Pant timed his innings to perfection, ramping up the aggression in a stellar 89 as India stormed to a record 328-run chase at the Gabba and became the first team to beat the hosts at the Brisbane stronghold since the West Indies in 1988.

Pakistan and India are political archrivals and fierce opponents in the cricket field. But Tuesday’s win was unequivocally cheered by Pakistani cricket fans on Twitter, who called it one of “the greatest test series and test match wins of all time.”

“From 36 all out in the same series to winning it on Australia soil. Wow,” former cricketer and fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar wrote.

“Investing in your players, giving them financial security, protecting them, giving them exposure, having A team tours is eventually bound to pay off. Well done India,” said cricket manager Rehan ulHaq.

“India basically pulled off one of the greatest test series and test match wins of all time,” said Uzair Younus, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. “To win Down Under [Australia] is an achievement on its own. But to do it when several first-team players are out injured is a whole new level of achievement. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.”

“Given results, their injuries, and lack thereof of the home side, this Indian team is probably the greatest from South Asia to tour Australia,” said Umair Javed, an assistant professor at LUMS, Pakistan’s most prestigious private university.

“Cricket is the winner (and Australia the loser),” Javed said in another tweet.

“What a fight back by Indian cricket team in the series, they’ve played quality cricket. From 36-all out in first test to 2-1 up. Commendable. Love and respect from Pakistan,” Twitter user Taliha said, posting one of thousands of tweets praising the Indian team’s performance.

“Tremendous cricket by Indians,” Haider Rasool wrote. “Love from Pakistan.”

One Indian Twitter user posted: “Thank you Pakistan. Today’s win is ever more special because of support from neighbor.”

Strained relations between the two nations, who were one country before the partition of British India split them into India and Pakistan in 1947, and a decades-long dispute over the Himalayan valley of Kashmir conflict, has laid the foundations of one of the most intense sports rivalries in the world.

Pakistan and Indian have not played a bilateral Test series since 2008 when already brittle ties were shattered by the Mumbai terror attacks.