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Saturday, 17 September 2011

A petition for freedom, identity, economy and dignity from Gilgit Baltistan

This was a petition written on behalf of Shafqat Inqalabi who has effectively been reduced to a humbled existence by the Pakistani State for daring to challenge it's legitimacy in Gilgit Baltistan. This follows a similar pattern to the treatment meted out to other notable civil rights activists (Manzoor Parwana and Baba Jaan) in the erstwhile Dogra State of Jammu & Kashmir.

The Interior Ministry of Pakistan has put Shafqat Ali Khan (sobriquet: Inqalabi), an activist from district Ghizer in Gilgit Baltistan on it's exit control list (ECL) without prior notice. The federal investigation agency (FIA) prevented him from boarding a flight from Lahore to Dubai on the 5th of August. The aforementioned agency confiscated his passport, national ID card and other travel documents whilst questioning him for two and a half hours. Their apparent reason, allowing him to travel out of Pakistan's jurisdiction could impede their national interest.

Whether or not the State of Pakistan's national interest takes precedence over the life and liberty of a human being who is not their constitutional citizen or indeed obliged to defer to their 'national interest', should open up a lively debate. Meanwhile, Shafqat describes the incident as a 'shameful act on the part of Pakistan'. He has been under constant vigilance and endured persistent harassment from the Pakistani State's clandestine agencies.

He thus considers his life to be under threat, particularly since filing a writ petition in Pakistan's Supreme Court on the 4th of March 2010, against the State Executive’s 'Empowerment and Self-Governance' Order for Gilgit-Baltistan, enacted on September the 9th 2009.

I am a political activist not a terrorist”, Shafqat points out as he beseeches the 'International Community' to take serious notice of this gross violation of his basic human right to travel. He also implores human rights organisations to save his life and for fellow activists to play a positive supportive role.

Profile of Shafqat Ali Khan

He was born on the 4th of March 1978 in Village: Bubur, Tehsil: Punial, District: Ghizar in Gilgit Baltistan. He resides with his family in Gahkuch city which serves as the district headquarters of Ghizar. His father (Nizat Bahadur) works as a government contractor and his family is considered amongst the most renowned political families of District Ghizar.

Shafqat passed his matriculation in 1996 from Al Azhar model school in Gilgit before moving to Hyderabad in Sindh (Pakistan). He completed his FSC exams in Pre-Engineering from Sir Ghulam Hussain Hidayat Ullah Higher Secondary School in Hyderabad. He was nominated for admission in Civil Engineering at the University of Engineering & Technology in Taxila from where he graduated in 2003.

Shafqat Ali Khan's political career commenced in 1997 whilst still a higher secondary level student. He worked as president of GQM (a district based organisation in Ghizer that stood against corruption) from 1997 to 1999 before becoming President of Karakorum Student Organisation - Punjab Zone in the same year up to 2002. Chairing this organisation in the capacity of Central Chairman from 2003 to 2005. Shafqat also played an active role in university union politics from 1999 to 2003. His active role in the national politics of Gilgit Baltistan commenced soon after graduation. A period of self-exile in Kabul (Afghanistan) ensued from December 2003 to June 2004.

Political pursuits included contesting district council elections twice. Shafqat Inqalabi has also written numerous articles on Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan focussing on their pending national question. He married in 2009 and has an 18 month old son.

Shafqat narrates that the Government of Pakistan through it's agencies began harassing him about six years ago. Their pursuit intensified after he submitted the writ petition against the Pakistani State (4th of March 2010) in it's apex court. When they (the agencies) failed in bringing him round to their line of thought, that infuriated them further. Wary of the impunity they enjoy, Shafqat Ali Khan kept the media informed whenever he endured the ire of Pakistan's secretive state apparatus - via press conferences in Islamabad, Muzaffarabad (AJK) and Gilgit. Please click on this link for some background.

In April 2009 what outside observers may rightly find bizarre, the Home Department of Gilgit Baltistan expelled Shafqat from his homeland and banned his re-entry for three months. His right to earn a living was cruelly devastated by the very same agencies in May 2009 when they halted his construction business in Muzaffarabad and prevented other contractors from conducting business with him. He lost 17 lakh rupees (equivalent to around 10,000 US dollars) in the project that he was forced to abandon.

In an effort to quell his freedom of speech and association, the agencies had carried out a well rehearsed tactic that had served them so well in the territories they control but do not legally own - since 1947 - namely economic suffocation. Building momentum to raise the 'national question' of Gilgit Baltistan and Kashmir, in order to advance his motherland's identity and hence dignity using the tool of freedom was viciously halted. The agencies didn't stop at that, they made his life difficult for him even in his home territory.

In the manner of any other human being who desires freedom, recognition of their identity, the right to earn an honest living and the dignity to enjoy equal rights, Shafqat Ali Khan's options to exist with his conscience intact became impossible. Leaving his beloved homeland and the adjoining State that occupies and rules it, was and is the only feasible option left to him and he's been denied that too.

Finishing with a recap of the event on the 5th of August (earlier this month), as Shafqat was undergoing the process of boarding a flight to Dubai from Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore at 1830hrs, he had checked in his luggage, cleared customs, received his boarding pass and had just the emigration counter to pass, he was stopped and informed that he had been on the dreaded ECL since March 2011 (though no legally imperative notice had been given to him). He was escorted to an FIA cell and not released until the completion of a two and a half hour interview and confiscation of his travel documents.

Shafqat Ali Khan (Inqalabi) is now left with no documents for travel, internal or external. He is effectively an alien and a prisoner, languishing in his home territory at a loss as to how to confront the predicament Pakistan has put him in. His, as well as his family's telephone/s have been tapped for the past two years. His suffocation and humiliation is complete. Any institution or country that sincerely believes in freedom and the richness of civilisation that it entails must take notice and act.

...

Written:
Friday
19/08/11

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