GILGIT: Progressive leader Baba Jan has launched a campaign from behind bars in Gilgit-Baltistan to free inmates who are still in jail after completing their sentence.
Talking to The Express Tribune from Gahkuch Jail over the telephone on Wednesday, Jan said, “Keeping prisoners in jail beyond their sentence is against basic human rights and custodians must take notice of this.”
He said under Pakistani law, prisoners completing 14 years in jail should be set free, however, unfortunately, this was not implemented in G-B. “Three inmates have completed 14 years and are still in Gahkuch jail,” said Jan.
Jan added he, along with his fellow inmates, had taken the task of getting justice for these prisoners.
Sharing his plans, Jan said, “In the first stage of our campaign, we will appeal to the chief justice of the supreme appellate court to look into the matter.”
He added talking to media was a crucial part of the campaign since this was the only way messages could be communicated to the outside world. “We are still thinking of expanding our movement,” Jan added.
According to Jan, the number of inmates in Gahkuch Jail was over 50 while its capacity was 80. “This jail is way better compared to all other jails in G-B but while it is spacious, inmates cannot help but feel useless during their time here,” he said.
No work, no play
“There are no skill enhancement programmes here,” he said. The leader emphasised on the need to include such initiatives. “They can utilise their time better and even acquire some skills which they might need after they are released,” he said.
The incarcerated leader said jail reforms were the real need of the hour.
“It is crucial to understand when inmates are finally released, they are civilised people and not terrorists,” added Jan.
Baba Jan was a member of the leftist Labour Party. He was accused along with 11 other party members of ransacking a police station and damaging government property in Hunza in 2011.
He was shifted from Gilgit to Gahkuch jail in Ghizer Valley in 2014 after an anti-terrorism court (ATC) sentenced him and 11 of his fellow felons to life imprisonment.
Jan was associated with a movement demanding autonomy for G-B. He pressed the government to create an independently-elected legislative body in G-B so natural resources and income generated could be controlled internally.
He also contested G-B legislative elections in June from prison, securing about 5,000 votes. He got the highest votes after Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz candidate Mir Ghazanfar, who is now
Published in The Express Tribune, October 29th, 2015.