Pakistan is a democratic country which means that the government here is elected by the people and for the people. Unfortunately, elections are always shady business in Pakistan and it is not possible to recall any elections in which the word rigging has not come up. The party that wins in insisting on the elections being fair while the party that loses is confident of them being rigged. The debate goes on for the whole tenure and the politicians fail to address the problems of the people. The recent by-elections that are being held across the country are no different.
In Gilgit-Baltistan the by-elections have been postponed by the Supreme Applet Court for three weeks. The elections were supposed to be held on May, 28. The reason behind the delay is one of the candidates of the Awami workers Party, Baba Jan. He is currently serving life sentence in jail. He was given permission by the Election Commission of Pakistan to contest the elections, but the Judges have made the decision to postpone them in light of the pending criminal cases against him. The Election Commission did not find any objection against his candidacy.
Who is Baba Jan?
When the life sentence is associated with someone’s name, people think of that person as a big criminal or terrorist. But Baba Jan is not a terrorist. He is the Chairperson of Progressive Youth Front (PYF) of Gilgit-Baltistan and he is also a member of the central executive committee of the Pakistan Labor Party. He is a simple person and an extremely motivated social activist. His crime is raising his voice for the rights of his people and being a socialist. He was imprisoned and incarcerated along with his associates because he demanded the rights that should be given to his people. He was tortured for demanding what is rightfully his and the people of Gilgit-Baltistan.
Whenever the people of Gilgit-Baltistan has been in need, he has been on the front line in helping the people. When Attabad was hit by a massive land sliding in 2010, he was in the forefront in demanding the compensation for the thousands of people who became homeless. As a result of raising his voice, he along with hundred people was arrested after the death of two people because of police firing. He was arrested for sedition and subjected to torture.
Baba Jan has become a symbol of struggle and hope for the youth of the area. He is considered by the youth, the ‘Che Guevara’ of their ignored and deprived land.
The increasing support for him seems frightening to the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) and the government of Pakistan. The people believe that PML-N and the government of Pakistan is using the government machinery against his election bid. the PML-N, PPP and other parties are trying to distraught his bid to win the elections.
Labour Party Pakistan
The Labour Party Pakistan was established in 1986 and it is a far left political party that allies closely with the Fourth International. In November 2012, the LPP announced that it will merge left with two other parties. It merged with Awami Party Pakistan and the Workers Party Pakistan and together they formed Awami Workers Party. This new party seeks to bring an end to feudalism, multi-national capitalism and imperialism and establishing a democratic federal system. They also look forward to establishing good relationships with all neighbors. Labour Party Pakistan is actively campaigning for the release of Baba Jan.
The Free Baba Jan Campaign
Apart from his own party, there were several youth organizations and human rights organization who campaigned for his release. Rallies were held in France, Switzerland, Indonesia and Australia demanding his release. The Human Rights commission also up his case and the chief secretary of Gilgit-Baltistan was called to explain the arrest of the youth leader. He was released in 2012. He was a broken man physically because of all the torture and beating he had to endure, but nothing could beat his spirit and his ideals. He was released on bail so the threat of going back still looms over his head, but he has become the voice of the people.
Political Landscape in Gilgit-Baltistan
There is a divide among the political parties over the issue of giving Gilgit-Baltistan provisional status. PML-N and PPP are a little hesitant on the decision because of the legal complications on an international level. Awami National Party (ANP) and Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid e Azam Group) have declared their support. In 2009, “The Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Ordinance” was enacted by the government and it aimed to grant autonomy to the northern areas and Azad Jammu Kashmir. The language Shina and Balti were recognized as regional languages of Pakistan. This is just the beginning and there is a lot that the people of Gilgit-Baltistan deserve and should get.
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