Pakistan: Baba Jan is free

Baba Jan

Thanks to an international campaign, climate activist Baba Jan and three fellow political prisoners were finally freed on November 28.

They were the last to be released of a group of political prisoners from the Hunza Valley in Gilgit Baltistan, a semi-autonomous territory under Pakistani control.

Following a politically-motivated prosecution, Baba Jan was imprisoned for supporting villagers impacted by the construction of an artificial lake in 2010, following an ecological disaster in the Hunza Basin. During detention, Baba Jan contested the state assembly election, in which he came second, reflecting the huge support he enjoys.

Baba Jan was first sentenced in 2014 to the equivalent of life imprisonment. He was sentenced a second time for having organised a prisoners’ strike for decent food and access to healthcare.

“During his detention, Baba Jan was tortured. His health deteriorated dangerously and essential medical examinations were, for a time, refused to him,” wrote French socialist Pierre Rousset. “Very temporarily released on parole, he was threatened with kidnap.

“The Pakistani government thought that what was happening in the “remote” territory of Gilgit-Baltistan would remain ignored outside its borders. It was particularly shocked when the fate of Baba Jan was mentioned in a European Parliament resolution.

“Baba Jan represents one of those ‘common causes’ where all democratic and progressive forces can stand together. We welcome his release.”

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