Karachi, 28 November 2020: Awami Workers Party hails the release of AWP leader Baba Jan, Aleem Khan, Iftikhar Karbalai, Shakoorullah Baig and all other political prisoners of GB as a victory for the people and for all forces of resistance. In a joint statement, AWP President Yousuf Mastikhan, General Secretary Akhtar Hussain, Deputy Secretary Ismat Shahjahan, Sindh President Bakhshal Thalho, Punjab President Ammar Rashid, Pakhtunkhwa President Haider Zaman, Seraiki Wasaib President Farhat Abbas and Balochistan President Yousuf Kakar congratulated the people of Hunza and Gilgit-Baltistan who bravely fought for their freedom and all progressive, left and resistance forces who continued to speak out against this injustice all these years.
The release of Baba Jan and his comrades after 9 long years is a reminder that, regardless of the extent and depth of oppression, the truth and justice always prevail in the end. Baba Jan and his comrades were convicted under terrorism laws and labeled terrorists and threats to the public.
Yet the truth of the matter is they were being punished for speaking up for the affectees of the Attabad Lake Disaster and for the rights of the working people of GB over their own resources. Their imprisonment was simply a reflection of the outdated, anti-people, colonial mechanisms of governance in Gilgit-Baltistan.
Today, by releasing them, the state itself has admitted to these truths.
Baba Jan’s release was not a result of a change of heart by the authorities but a result of people’s struggle. It was an outcome of the historic Hunza sit-in by the prisoners’ families, AWP-GB, & other parties, dozens of countrywide protests by AWP and other comrades of the Left, support from the sympathetic members of nationalist and mainstream parties, solidarity from the human rights and feminist community and Leftist organizations and individuals around the world, and support from ordinary working people writ large.
We appreciate the support from various parties and groups who stood steadfastly for his release, in particular Senators Afrasiab Khattak, Farhatullah Babar and Usman Kakar who consistently raised Baba Jan’s imprisonment on the floor of the Senate, media and public sphere. We thank HRCP which consistently documented and called out the injustices against Baba Jan and other political prisoners. We also thank comrades from other Leftist, progressive and nationalist groups who campaigned hard for Baba Jan’s freedom.
We also remember today the late Asma Jahangir, who had long spoken out for Baba Jan and against colonial mechanisms of rule in GB, and acknowledge international stalwarts of the Left like Noam Chomsky and Tariq Ali who petitioned for his release. We are grateful also to those countless poets, singers and musicians who dedicated their creative art to Baba Jan and his struggle.
While we celebrate, we cannot forget that Baba Jan and his comrades have lost nearly 10 years of their lives for a crime they did not commit. This was a miscarriage of justice beyond all reason and imagination and justice is far from being fully served yet.
It is also important to remember that the charges against Baba Jan and his comrades have not been dropped, in order that they may be cynically used against them if and when the state desires. We condemn this continued use of anti-terror charges as a negotiating tactic and we will continue to wage a legal and political battle against these false charges in the courts of GB and Pakistan, against the use of anti-terrorism laws against political workers and to dismantle the colonial authoritarian structure of governance in GB and other peripheries under non-democratic rule.
Despite this, today we celebrate the return of a people’s hero to his people. Today, we celebrate a hard-won dawn after a long night.
Surkh Salam, Baba Jan.
AWP Information Secretary