You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

–Maya Angelou

 

Baba Jan is an activist, politician from Gilgit Baltistan who is currently serving a life time sentence in Jail on the charges of various concocted political cases. He was arrested in 2011 under Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Act. As a result of a massive land sliding in Hunza River in 2010, many villages were swept along. When some of the dispossessed families were denied compensation, they organized a protest in Aliabad during a visit of then Chief Minister of Gilgit Baltistan. The police used violent means to disperse the protestors and killed a father and a son in the process. Baba Jan was not a part of the protest, but when he came to know of the incident, he vowed to organize peaceful protests to demand an investigation of the killings. The culprit police, deeming the threat Baba Jan could pose, arrested him under the false charges of “ransacking and vandalizing police property.” Baba Jan was an immensely popular figure in Gilgit Baltistan because of his efforts for the rights of his people, frequently trampled down by Islamabad. The general elections of 2015 revealed his popularity when he won the second highest number of votes despite being in jail and unable to campaign. Recently, he has revealed how he is suffering from Cardiac disease in Jail. His appeal to Prime Minister for a medical treatment has been ignored.

Our state institutions are historically known for their exploitative, criminal attitude towards the peripheral areas of Gilgit Baltistan, FATA and Baluchistan. When figures like Baba Jan reveal its atrocities, they are shamelessly dismissed, punished as the foreign funded agents, terrorists who want to tarnish the image of Pakistan. There is a dire need to accommodate such voices from the fringes instead of criminalizing them.