Court upholds life sentence for Baba Jan

Court upholds life sentence for Baba Jan

On June 9, the Supreme Appellate Court (SAC) in Gilgit-Baltistan upheld the life sentence of Baba Jan, the popular leader of the leftwing Awami Workers Party (AWP) from Hunza valley, and 11 of his comrades. An anti-terrorism court (ATC) had earlier found them guilty of ransacking a police station and damaging government property during political riots at Aliabad in 2011.

The decision comes days before a local by-election he planned to contest, amid an international campaign calling for his freedom. A large number of people who disagree with Baba Jan’s political ideology also believe the allegations made against him are false and politically motivated.

A three-member bench of SAC – consisting of Chief Justice Rana Muhammad Shamim, Justice Javed Iqbal and Justice Shahbaz Khan – upheld the ATC verdict by two judges to one, with Justice Shahbaz Khan deciding in favor of the political activists.

“I cannot comment on the decision, but we were not expecting this,” said Advocate Nazir, one of the lawyers pleading Baba Jan’s case.

Baba Jan will not be able to contest the elections

The ATC had said in its verdict that the prosecution was able to prove that the 12 accused men were “guilty of vandalizing property, attacking public servants, and ransacking arms and ammunitions from the police station”. Each of the convicts were also fined Rs 100,000 by the court.

“We strongly condemn the decision. It was politically motivated,” said Farzana Bari, civil rights activist and a member of the AWP. “It is an attempt by his political rivals to move Baba Jan out of their way.” She said it conveyed a stern message to the people of the area, that “the politics of Baba Jan, who speaks for the rights of locals, is not acceptable in the region”.

Hailing from the Nasirbad town in Hunza valley, Baba Jan is a leading figure of the AWP, which was formed in 2012 following the merger of Labour Party, Workers Party and Awami Party.

On January 2, 2010, a massive landslide killed around 20 people and blocked the flow of Hunza River for almost five months, turning Attabad village into a lake. Baba Jan organized the displaced people to lobby the government for compensation and rehabilitation.

On August 11, 2011 a large number of Attabad victims took to the streets. Police tried to disperse the protesters at Aliabad, where the convoy then chief minister Mehdi Shah was on its way on the highway. When the protesters resisted, police began using teargas. Then, two protesters – Sherullah Baig and his son Afzal Baig – were shot dead. The killings led to riots in Hunza valley. In Aliabad, a police station was ransacked and government buildings were looted. Police registered a case against the rioters and arrested around one hundred people. All but 17 of them were released.

According to AWP spokesman Farooq Tariq, “Those who agreed to join PML-N were freed.”

In September 2014, an ATC declared five of them innocent, and sentenced the remaining 12 – including Baba Jan – to life imprisonment. A judicial probe was also carried out, but its report was not made public.

After the SAC decision, the local leadership of the AWP called a press conference and vowed to renew their struggle for the release of Baba Jan and 11 other people. The PPP and the PML-N had been blaming each other for the riots, they said, and that was proof that Baba Jan is innocent. On June 12, AWP activists gathered at Nasirabad in solidarity with Baba Jan.

Baba Jan had contested the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly elections from behind the bars in 2015. He was the runner up in the GBLA-6 constituency, which was won by now-governor Mir Ghazanfar Ali, who belongs to the PML-N.

The AWP had announced that Baba Jan would contest the by-polls scheduled on May 28.  On April 30, the returning officer rejected his nomination papers on the grounds of his conviction. Four days later, a court accepted an appeal by Baba Jan’s lawyer against the rejection. But days prior to the election, the SAC ordered postponing the by-polls for three weeks. According to local media, the decision was made to “first complete the hearing of pending criminal cases against Baba Jan”.

The SAC verdict means Baba Jan will not be able to contest the elections, Advocate Nazir said. “However, we have submitted a review petition.”

For political analyst Amir Hussain, that means a missed opportunity “to show the world that we respect dissenting views expressed through the ballot”.

According to veteran journalist Abdul Jabbar Nasir – who says he strongly disagrees with the politics and the ideology of Baba Jan – “the decision was not fair”, especially when the by-polls were approaching.

But he also criticized the AWP for not pleading the case of its workers in a strong way. “The party supports Baba Jan for political reasons, but it did not even bother to hire some leading legal experts of the country for the case,” he said.

The AWP has announced countrywide protests, calling for the judicial probe of the Aliabad incident to be made public, and a review of Baba Jan and his comrades’ conviction. Source

Kalash girl says she chose to convert to Islam – This is what Usually Happens In Pakistan

PESHAWAR: The dispute over the conversion to Islam of a Kalash girl was resolved on Friday as the 14-year-old recorded her statement before a judicial magistrate saying she converted out of free will, a government official confirmed.

Kalash students attend a class at a school in the Brun village of Bumboret valley. ─ AFP

On Thursday, the girl’s decision to convert sparked a clash between the Kalash tribe and members of the Muslim community in the Bamburate Valley of Chitral district, forcing police to use teargas to disperse the mobs. The dispute started apparently because the girl backtracked on her conversion, and the Muslim community accused the Kalash tribe of forcing her to do so.

Deputy Commissioner Chitral Usama Waraich along with his staff reached the valley on Friday and convened a jirga of elders from both sides.

Waraich told DawnNews that the jirga thoroughly discussed the issue and both sides agreed that the girl’s statement will be final and they will accept her will. He said that the administration shifted the girl to Chitral town and presented her before a judicial magistrate.

The girl recorded her statement before the magistrate, “saying she was not forced by any community to convert to Islam,” said the deputy commissioner.

He said the girl’s family and the Kalash community accepted her statement.

“It is now up to the girl whether she lives with her Kalash family or the Muslim community,” he said.

Usama said that the district administration and police are investigating causes of the clash and have registered a First Information Report.

A villager earlier told Dawn newspaper by phone from Chitral that the girl converted to Islam on Wednesday “under the guidance” of a local Muslim, left her home and decided to stay with the man’s family in the same village.

But Luke Rehmat, a Kalash activist, said the girl, a student of class IX, had a change of heart on Thursday, saying that she had made a mistake in converting to Islam and returned to her home.

Following this, he told Dawn, a group of villagers started marching on the Kalash quarter of Bamburate village. They alleged that the girl’s relatives had forcibly taken her away from the Muslim home and compelled her to go back on her conversion.

The Kalash activist also claimed that the villagers attacked a Kalash house with stones and sticks.

Reports said the Kalash community elders and the girl’s family were of the view that the teenager was lured and forced to change her religion.

About 3,000 Kalash live in Bamburate, Birir and Rambur Valleys — all in southern Chitral. Increasingly their youth are converting to Islam, prompting activists to campaign to preserve the traditions of the ancient, diminishing tribe.

Chitral, a northern district of Khyber-Pukhtunkwa province, has long attracted tourists for its beauty. Source

Diana Baig of Hunza, life as Pakistan’s cricket and football star

— AFP or licensors

The talented 20-year-old plays for Pakistan’s national team in both cricket and football.

LAHORE: Diana Baig shifts restlessly in her seat, checking her watch every few seconds at an awards ceremony after leading her cricket team to victory.

Soon she has to play a football match at another venue, and time is ticking.

Baig is no stranger to the pressure. The talented 20-year-old plays for Pakistan’s national team in both cricket and football, representing the country as one of the “Girls in Green” at the recent World Twenty20 tournament in India in between practicing her penalty shoot-out skills.

“It was an honour to be selected for the T20 squad,” she says, in between glances at her watch.

She did not make the starting team, but being at the tournament — even from the sidelines — was “very encouraging for me — it gave me new life, a new energy”.

Pakistani national cricket and football player Diana Baig gestures as she speaks during an interview in Lahore. — AFP
Pakistani national cricket and football player Diana Baig gestures as she speaks during an interview in Lahore. — AFP

The 20-year-old grew up playing street cricket and football with other children in the magnificent Hunza Valley, their makeshift arenas ringed by some of the world’s tallest mountains in Pakistan’s northern Gilgit-Baltistan.

The fact that she was a girl did not matter, she says: Baig belongs to the Ismaili sect of Shia Islam, who are followers of the Aga Khan — infamous in conservative Pakistan for their moderate views.

That largely freed her from the restrictions placed on other, more conservative women in the Muslim country, where her gender is battling for greater freedom.

From the streets, Baig began playing in community events and for local teams, and by 2010 she was leading the newly-formed Gilgit-Baltistan women’s team.

Two years later, she was selected for Pakistan’s A side, and then as a reserve player for the 2013 World Cup.

In 2015 she finally won her first international cap, playing for Pakistan against Bangladesh.

Diana Baig runs to field the ball during a domestic cricket championship match in Islamabad. — AFP
Diana Baig runs to field the ball during a domestic cricket championship match in Islamabad. — AFP

But Baig says she had her moments of despair along the way.

“A time came when I could not see my future bright like this,” she admits.

Being selected for the A side changed all that. “After that, I started to work hard.”

Accidental football star

Her journey to the forefront of Pakistani women’s football was even more dramatic.

In cricket-obsessed Pakistan, football — especially women’s football — finds itself largely unable to compete in the popularity stakes.

But while playing cricket in Islamabad in 2010, Baig tried out for the Gilgit-Baltistan football team on a whim after friends told her they needed players.

She made the team and, to her disbelief, in 2014 was selected to play for Pakistan at the SAFF Championships in Bahrain.

She has been a member of the starting 11 as a defender ever since, she says, unable to hide her excitement.

Diana Baig takes part in a football training session at a ground in Lahore. — AFP
Diana Baig takes part in a football training session at a ground in Lahore. — AFP

Baig has had to fight harder for her cricket career.

Unlike in men’s cricket, Pakistan’s women’s players are not contracted and are selected on a match by match basis from lower-ranked teams, such as the several hundred playing at the provincial level.

That means that there were times when Baig was in — and times when she was out.

Fighting to keep her place was complicated by the fact that — again, unlike the men — Pakistan’s women have no regular facilities or practice time, meaning Baig was forced to rely on training with her university team to keep up to international standard.

But her selection for the World T20 meant the hard work on the playing fields at the Lahore College for Women University had paid off.

“It is because of this college, this ground, because regular practice is very important,” she says.

Diana Baig shares a light moment with her colleagues at a football club in Lahore. — AFP
Diana Baig shares a light moment with her colleagues at a football club in Lahore. — AFP

Having it all

Now Baig is fighting to maintain a crucial balance between her sporting dreams and an education. “It becomes very hard,” she says.

“I try to start from football… I play football in the morning, then our cricket training starts around 11 or 12 noon and continues until 3:00 pm or 4:00 pm.”

After that, she says, she heads to her university hostel for food and drink.

“I start studying during the night, continuing until late.”

Diana Baig spends quality time with her friends. — AFP
Diana Baig spends quality time with her friends. — AFP

Women’s cricket is growing in popularity in Pakistan, she says, with corporations such as mobile companies increasingly arranging sports events.

The women’s team received unprecedented support from Pakistani fans disillusioned by the men’s dismal performance during the World T20 in India, with the hashtag #GirlsinGreen trending.

With cricket taking up more and more time, her studies — she is on a full scholarship at the university, where she is in her first semester of a health and physical education degree — are suffering, Baig admits.

“But one has to manage it.”

Though determined, she knows that one day she will have to choose.

When asked which path she will take, she laughed.

“You know, in Asia, there is more charm in cricket,” she says, acknowledging her playing for the football team is the harder road. Dawn

Diana Baig delivers the ball during a domestic cricket championship match in Islamabad. — AFP

Four Youth Died In a Car Accident

While coming from Islamabad to Gojal, Hunza, four talented youth have lost their lives in a car incident near Dassu as well as the driver of the car who hails form Mansehra, KPK. This, incident shocked all the people of Hunza and Gilgit-Baltistan at the loss of precious lives. The four people are from the village of Gulmit, in Gojal, Hunza (). May all the deceased rest in peace and bereaved family be blessed with tolerance to face this tragedy (Ameen!)

Women Lead Enterprises for Women – Game Changer

With the support of a great philanthropist Apa, Daulat Rahimmtoola 25 girls from Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral, have received an intense and prolific training in the area of entrepreneurship, self grooming and beautician. The program was also supported by Aga Khan Economic Planning Board (AKEPB) and Enjaz, Pakistan.

A participant, Ms. Farzana from Gupis receiving certificate of training from Apa Daulat Rahimtoola

A participant, Ms. Farzana from Gupis receiving certificate of training from Apa Daulat Rahimtoola

Group Picture of some of Trainess at Piovt Point, Institute

Group Picture of some of Trainess at Piovt Point, Institute

During this training girls from far flung areas of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral have visited Karachi for a one month long course and attend secessions carefully and professionally designed by the experts of ,Pivot Point, which is owned by Besides, hands on skills, the course has also focused on how to utilize the indigenous products of GB and Chitral to provide cost effective and more efficient ways to maintain and enhance body health and skin care, in particular for women. This basic training course will be providing the girls from Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral the skills to start up their own micro enterprises and generate income for the well being of their families.

“The people of Hunza, Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral are sitting literally on gold mines” Apa Daulat Rahimmtoola.

In this training Apa Daulat Rahimmtoola, who is beside being a great philanthropist is also a very successful entrepreneur, has personally taken a special interest to enlighten the girls and motivating them to be visionary in their lives, focus of progressive and collaborative development and working hard.

“She (Daulat Rahimatoola) has given us confidence and courage to see a vision to be a very successful women entrepreneur.” Farzana

One of the course participants Ms. Farzana from Gupis, put her experience in these words,

“This training program was a great opportunity for me, I have learned a lot for the training sessions and different instructors. However, what I have learned from Apa Daulat Rahetullah is nothing to compare with. With examples from her own life and her entrepreneur experience she has given us confidence and courage to see a vision to be a very successful women entrepreneur. She helped me to end my fear of failure and enabled to work hard with a dream of success. I am very much thankful to her! I am also thankful to AKEPB and Injaz, Pakistan for their contributions for facilitating this training”

Apa Daulat Rahimtoola has also expressing her views:

“It is my pleasure to be helpful to these young girls and I am sure that this training will enable them to further harness their skills and to be independent in their lives. It is important for girls to be independent and beneficial for the whole society to progress as a whole. The people of Hunza, Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral are sitting literally on gold mines in terms of the fruits, herbs, weather, and mineral resources, they just need exposure and right resources to exploit their precious reservoirs. I am so pleased to help all these young girls from Hunza, Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral.”

Princess Zahra and Prince Rahim see opportunities ahead in Pakistan

  • Mountaineer-siblings Samina and Mirza Ali Baig present a memento to Princess Zahra and Prince Rahim at an institutional dinner hosted by the Ismaili Council for Pakistan. Rahil Imtiaz Ali
    Musicians led by Pakistani-Ismaili singer Shehzad Roy perform before Princess Zahra and Prince Rahim at the institutional dinner. AL-JALIL AJANI
Princess Zahra and Prince Rahim see opportunities ahead in Pakistan
27 May 2016Islamabad, 27 May 2016 — As their working visit to Pakistan drew to a close, Princess Zahra and Prince Rahim expressed optimism and a sense of opportunity about the tasks that lay ahead of the Aga Khan Development Network in improving quality of life for the people of the country.
  • “For me and Princess Zahra, the main takeaway is that we’ve heard the word ‘optimism’ several times today, and I think that’s what I’m feeling now,” said Prince Rahim, speaking at a dinner hosted by the Ismaili Council for Pakistan on Wednesday evening. Noting that while there are challenges ahead, he said that these “are not insurmountable — we have to look at them as opportunities and a chance to help people who are in need.”

    The two had travelled to Gilgit in northern Pakistan earlier in the week, where they inaugurated a new medical centre and visited a school, a professional development centre for educators, and a recently built Jamatkhana.

    Speaking at the institutional dinner, Hafiz Sherali, President of the Ismaili Council, remarked on the ambitions of the AKDN’s work in the region. “[It] will provide more access for marginalised communities to education, healthcare, rural development, risk mitigation and economic opportunities.”

    “Your presence is reassuring for all of us that Pakistan has a bright future,” President Sherali told Princess Zahra and Prince Rahim. “It is a safe place for our children to grow up and thrive in the educational institutions and work environment. The birth country of Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan III is, and will remain, a steady home for the community in the decades to come.”

    Earlier in the day Princess Zahra and Prince Rahim attended a signing ceremony to mark the coming together of HBL (Habib Bank Ltd) and First MicroFinanceBank Ltd through the acquisition by HBL of a 51 per cent majority share of the nationwide microfinance pioneer, whose roots are in the credit and savings section of the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme.

    Owned by the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, HBL is Pakistan’s first commercial bank. The combination of the two financial institutions aims to better serve customers from all segments of Pakistani society.

    During the course of their visit, Princess Zahra and Prince Rahim also met with Jamati and AKDN leaders to assess the needs of the Jamat and review the impact of the existing programmes.

    The institutional dinner featured a performance by Shehzad Roy, a well-known Ismaili singer, musician and philanthropist, who had specially composed a song for the event in honour of Princess Zahra and Prince Rahim. Accomplished Ismaili mountaineer-siblings Samina Baig and Mirza Ali Baig presented Princess Zahra and Prince Rahim a photographic memento of the summits that they scaled together — the highest peaks on seven continents.

    Princess Zahra and Prince Rahim departed Pakistan the next day. Prince Rahim concluded his dinner remarks by expressing appreciation for the work that went into organising their visit: “President, Vice-President, the volunteers, the entire Jamaat — it’s been a huge amount of work, I know that… so thank you.”

    “I feel optimistic, I know my sister feels optimistic, sad to leave and very very grateful for the amount of work and effort that went into this trip.” Source

Sadiq Khan – Mayor of London




Sadiq Khan has said he “never dreamt” he would become Mayor of London as he was formally sworn in as Boris Johnson’s successor.

Doreen Lawrence, the mother of murdered teenager of Stephen Lawrence, said she had not expected to see an ethnic minority politician during her lifetime at his official inauguration.

Sir Ian McKellen and Ed Miliband were among hundreds of guests present for the ceremony at Southwark Cathedral on Saturday morning, after which Mr Khan announced he would be standing down as an MP.

BSadiq Khan during his swearing-in ceremony at Southwark Cathedral in central London on May 7, 2016. (AFP/Getty Images)

The triumphant Labour politician received a standing ovation as he entered the packed building, which is the seat of the Anglican Church in south London.

“My name is Sadiq Khan and I’m the Mayor of London,” he announced to huge cheers and applause.

“We’re here in Southwark Cathedral because I want to start my mayoralty as I intend to go on.

Sadiq Khan is greeted by Ian McKellen as he arrives for his swearing-in ceremony at Southwark Cathedral in London on May 7, 2016. (AFP/Getty Images)

“I am determined to lead the most transparent, engaged and accessible administration London has ever seen and to represent every single community and every single part of our city as a mayor for all Londoners.

“So I wanted to do this signing in ceremony here, in the very heart of our city, surrounded by Londoners of all backgrounds.”

The democratic presidential hopeful, Hillary Clinton, has offered her congratulations to Mr Khan, writing on Twitter; “Son of a Pakistani bus driver, champion of workers & human rights, and now Mayor of London. Congrats.”

Mr Khan, who was elected on Friday with more than 1.3 million votes, emphasised his message of “hope over fear” amid controversy over his Conservative rival’s campaign.

Zac Goldsmith was accused of attempting to smear his opponent by linking him with alleged Islamist extremists with whom he had attended platforms or represented during his work as a lawyer.

Karen Buck, Ed Miliband, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, and London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson, at Sadiq Khan’s swearing in ceremony at Southwark Cathedral in London on May 7, 2016. (AFP/Getty Images)

Mr Khan’s success was seen as an embarrassment for the Tory camp, prompting some Conservatives and Mr Goldsmith’s own sister, Jemima Khan, to criticise their election tactics.

“I can’t quite believe the last 24 hours,” the new Mayor of London said after signing the document officially declaring him mayor, watched by leaders of different faiths.

“I never dreamt I could be standing here…I promise you that I will always do everything in my power to make our city better.”

He had been introduced by Baroness Lawrence, the mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence.

“This really is a glorious day,” she said. ”I never imagined in my lifetime I could have a mayor of London from an ethnic minority.“

 Mr Miliband, the former Labour leader, was sitting in the front row alongside Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe.

The Dean of Southwark, Andrew Nunn, told the congregation Mr Khan’s victory brought a ”carnival atmosphere“ to the sacred building.

Jeremy Corbyn was conspicuously absent from the ceremony but led congratulations on Twitter, telling the new mayor: ”Can’t wait to work with you to create a London that is fair for all“.

Thursday’s election results gave Mr Khan the largest personal mandate of any politician in UK history, generating excitement over his future potential among supporters. Source




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