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23 February 2020

Tahir Ali Tahir, another political prisoner

By Noor Akbar Gohar

Tahir Ali Tahir, a young nationalist leader of Gilgit-Baltistan is languishing at Damas jail in Ghizer district of Gilgit-Baltistan along with Comrade Baba Jan and another nationalist leader Comrade Iftikhar. The charges framed against him are subversive activities against the state and involvement in terrorist activities.   

He had made a speech during a political gathering with regard to the Elections for Legislative Assembly Gilgit-Baltistan, 2015, in which he had expressed his reservation about the role of establishment in the elections. He had demanded the elections to be held under the auspices of United Nations to ensure transparency.

Given the past role of law enforcement agencies in the electoral process, the disputed nature of the region and Pakistan’s own stand that Kashmir dispute should be resolved in light of UNCIP Resolutions, his reservation carried weight.  

According to the Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif’s recent formal reply to Yaseen Malik’s concern over the issue of making GB a constitutional part of Pakistan, it’s been clearly stated that GB is part of Kashmir Dispute and that Pakistan cannot integrate it constitutionally.

It’s strange to see that when a statement like this is made by a son of GB, he is booked under seditious charges. It seems as if the establishment does not want local people to raise questions that could challenge the decades’ long illegitimate, coercive and exploitative rule in the region.

Ironically, instead of addressing the genuine questions and issues of the people, the state resorts to suppression of the local voice for any right. Those criticizing the Govt. for its failure in fulfilling its responsibilities are silenced and any path leading to political awareness and empowerment of local people is blocked by any means that suit their purpose.

Human rights activities, social activism and even the peaceful protest in connection with the basic issues of people are dubbed as indicators of conspiracy against the Pakistan. It has never been taken as indicators of increasing political awareness, the realization, on part of people, of being marginalized politically and economically.

Why are nationalists and progressive forces treated with a heavy hand? This is not because they are agents of India. It is because, the mass mobilization created by them, on basic issues of people, directly challenges the parasitic nature of politico-bureaucratic nexus. This nexus is nurtured and provided with room, by the state and establishment, to exploit and feed on the resources of common men.

Politicians and bureaucrats misuse their powers and abuse the resources of the region endlessly. They make fortunes, through corruption at the cost of the poor. Law does not take its course on here, but those criticizing and protesting against exploitation of their resources are declared outlaw, criminals, terrorist and traitors.

Similarly, religious pundits of all sects as strong tools of the establishment, are interestingly united in keeping the society divided, thereby making a united front of people impossible by spiritually blackmailing the people.

This exploitative nexus is threatened, when people are mobilized on conscious basis as one nation or as an exploitative class. It is a fight between the exploited and exploiters; between have-nots and haves, between preys and predators. Tahir Ali Tahir, Baba Jan and Iftikhar represent the poor and exploited people of Gilgit-Baltistan, whereas so called courts, police, army and the provincial government represent the exploiters.

The state just doesn’t seem to bother about the violation of basic human rights. What does it care about is the consolidation of political power, by any means, be it right or wrong, be it through rigged elections or disfranchising leaders of poor like Baba Jan.

Contrary to the past it’s not possible to rule people under the yoke of bayonets in the present era of globalization. Keeping people deprived of their rights will create short and long term repercussions in these strategically important mountainous areas of Gilgit-Baltistan. The more the people are repressed, the more resistance they will show. This is a lesson from history that needs to be learnt.

Severe torture and inhuman treatment is being meted out to the activists in the interrogation cells in sheer violation of rights of political prisoners. Having failed in their attempt to force them to retreat from their struggle, attempts are made to lure them by offering money, top political slots, quota in jobs etc, but this all has gone in vain in most of the cases in GB. Had Baba Jan, Iftikhar and leaders like Tahir Ali Tahir accepted the offers or succumbed to the physical and psychological torture, they would have been given clean chit and set free.

They are un-deterring brave sons of GB with a resolute will to give the right place to their people. They are sacrificing and going through the test of time and agony for their people. Their sacrifices will not go waste but create awareness and resistance to the oppression. This is a lesson the concerned authorities and establishment should not ignore.