GB court upholds life sentence for political activist

Gilgit: A Gilgit Baltistan court has upheld the life imprisonment awarded to a political activist, Baba Jan, from the country’s semi-autonomous north.

An anti-terrorism court had convicted Baba Jan, a left wing political activist from the Hunaz Vally in GB, for participating in political riots in 2011.

Jan has vocally protested what he and supporters describe as political, constitutional and human rights violations in the area, organising rallies and demonstrations in protest. He contested local elections last year from prison, placing second in the polls. “The decision was aimed at barring Baba Jan from contesting elections but it will have a counter-productive impact,” said political analyst Amir Hussain. “This decision will backfire and trigger extremist views like a nationalistic upsurge,” he said.

A simmering resentment has been building in Gilgit Baltistan since Islamabad began mulling upgrading its constitutional status in a bid to provide legal cover to a multi-billion-dollar Chinese investment plan in the area. Islamabad has historically insisted that the area, along with the parts of Kashmir it controls, are semi-autonomous and has not formally integrated them into the country, in line with its position that a referendum on sovereignty should be carried out across the whole of the region. But Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz last week confirmed that a committee established to come up with a plan to reexamine the area’s constitutional status had completed its work, adding that it was waiting a final approval from the prime minister. However, Aziz did not give any further details on what the plan entailed.