Days after police in the Hunza region of Gilgit-Baltistan arrested popular social media activist Hasnain Ramal for highlighting rights violations in region through his posts, a senior journalist of Gilgit-Baltistan has charged the Government of Pakistan with pursuing double standards on matters of policy.
Gilgit-Baltistan-based journalist Sher Nadir Shahi said, "This (arrest of Ramal) is nothing new. Anybody who exposes Pakistan and its dummy government faces the wrath of government."
"On the one hand, Pakistan is illegally occupying our territory for the last 70 years. Pakistan is also abetting terrorists and helping them open political outfits, the latest example being Hafeez Saeed and the announcement of the launch of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD)'s political outfit Milli Muslim League (MML) recently, and on other hand, Ramal and people who are demanding their legitimate human rights are being persecuted," Shahi added.
Shahi's comment came even as social activists and the journalist fraternity in Gilgit-Baltistan continue to stage widespread protests over the illigeal detention of Ramal, who was taken into custody on August 8 and presented before a court the next day on trumped up charges.
Police have claimed that Ramal has violated the Anti-Terrorism Act and the Cyber Crime Act 2016.
Media has reported that Ramal was detained by the local law enforcement authorities for being very vocal in highlighting public issues related to Gilgit-Baltistan on social media. Ramal, police said, was detained for raising political, national and basic human rights' issues of Gilgit-Baltistan on social media.
One daily quoted Ehsan Ali, an advocate and president of the Supreme Appellate Court Bar Association (SACBA), as saying that Ramal had been questioned by a joint investigation team (JIT) for his social media posts and was produced before a court on Wednesday (August 9).
Earlier, Ramal's name was put on Schedule 4 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, but on the intervention of Ehsan Ali, the issue was resolved.
Police said that Ramal was also at the forefront of a movement launched by the Awami Action Movement for the restoration of subsidy on wheat and other essential items that were withdrawn four years ago by the PML-N government.
The movement was very successful and a rare demonstration of unity among different religious, nationalist and progressive parties in the sectarian-infested political atmosphere of Gilgit-Baltistan. The government had to budge and restore the subsidy on food items.
Leaders of the Awami Workers Party Gilgit-Baltistan (AWP-GB) and AWP Rawalpindi-Islamabad chapter have expressed concern over Ramal's arrest under what they called "trumped up charges".
They demanded his immediate release as also of the other nationalist and progressive political activists.
They also expressed concern over rising incidents of enforced disappearances in Sindh, Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan.
They said that the government is allowing terrorist outfits to operate in the country without any hindrance on the one hand, while on the other, progressive, nationalist and human rights activists are being victimized for raising their voices for their fundamental national, political and democratic rights peacefully.
Editorials appearing in two separate major dailies in Pakistan this week have made a mention of the launching of the MML as the Jamaat-ud-Dawa's (JuD's) plans to venture into mainstream politics.
Media is viewing the development with skepticism, given the Jamaat-ud-Dawa's past alleged links to terrorism, militancy and insurgency.
The Dawn has acknowledged that the MML has hit all expected talking points that need rectifying, including corruption of the political leadership, an end to the deliberate fanning of sectarian and ethnic tensions, the country's direction towards liberalism and secularism and the charity work being carried out by the JuD, but the editorial, however, cautions that the "JuD comes with a considerable degree of baggage, a questionable pedigree of sorts."
It reminds the reader that while entry into the political mainstream is a welcome step, the irrefutable fact is that the JuD is on the "government watch list under Schedule II of the Anti Terrorism Act, and its own predecessor, the Lashkar-e-Taiba - now banned - is associated with jihadist adventurism across the border (read India), including operations such as the Mumbai attacks in 2008."
It reminds that the LeT has been and continues to be "an obdurate opponent of democracy, deeming it incompatible with Islam".
The Dawn says that, "the MML should be emphatic in its repudiation of militancy."
Endorsing a similar sentiment, The Nation, in its editorial, however, says that the JuD is attempting "a clear political reincarnation."
"This may be an attempt to provide a cover to the organisation amid pressure from the international community on Pakistan to crack down on the JuD for its alleged involvement in terrorist activities in India and its links to Al Qaeda," the editorial in The Nation, says.
Maintaining that it would be naïve to underestimate the support that the JuD has in Pakistan, the editorial questions whether the emergence of the MML will polarise an already fragmented Pakistani society?
It believes and predicts that the popular welfare activities of the JuD will convince the masses in Pakistan to "internalize" the party's extremist political ideology.
Pakistan's law enforcing and intelligence agencies have been using such laws to muzzle the dissenting voice
Many prominent political leaders in Gilgit Baltistan are now behind bars. They include Baba Jan, Iftikhar, Dee Jay Mathal, Qayum Balawar, Safdar Ali, Mehbob Advocate, Sannaullah, Quwat khan, Inayat Karim, Majidullah and others.