AWP seeks release of arrested workers
ISLAMABAD: The Awami Workers Party (AWP) condemned the state’s use of violence and anti-terrorist legislation against progressive political workers, trade unionists and intellectuals and demanded the immediate release of party activists who are currently in jail.
AWP president and lawyer Abid Hasan Minto spoke to participants at a seminar held at the National Press Club titled ‘State repression against political activists: The View from the Left’. He said that since the onset of the ‘war on terror’, states around the world have come up with a host of new legislation under the guise of containing terrorist organizations, but in fact many of these laws have been used to muzzle progressives whose political views are considered a threat to state power.
“In Pakistan hundreds of nationalists in Balochistan and now in Sindh have been taken away over the past few years, some of whose mutilated bodies have been later dumped in a gruesome fashion,” he said.
“Those who have been fortunate to survive these brutalities have been arbitrarily charged under the Anti-Terrorist Act and incarcerated such as Baba Jan in Gilgit-Baltistan, whose only crime is that he mobilized local communities to demand their rights from the state,” he said.
Former chairperson HRCP Asma Jehangir said that while many political activists languish in courts, theirs are political cases which can be withdrawn.
She said that it is not an accident that leftists and nationalists are consistently targeted by state agencies whereas workers of mainstream parties and particularly religious political organizations hardly ever face victimization.
Giving the example of the Bannu jailbreak, she noted that even when far-right militants are arrested, they find ways of escaping which proves just how committed the state is to dealing with militancy.
Asma Jehangir said that when mainstream parties pass legislation such as the Pakistan Protection Ordinance (PPO) which clearly gives a free hand to the security agencies to act with impunity it becomes clear that real power in the country continues to be exercised by the military establishment.
AWP Punjab president Aasim Sajjad said that Pakistani state has terrorized progressives since its very inception, and has consistently labeled those that express dissenting views as ‘enemies of the state’. He said that this attitude applies not only to activists that explicitly engage in politics but is evident even within universities and in the media both of whom are supposed to be bastions of independent thinking. AWP leaders Dr. Farzana Bari, Nisar Shah, Masud Hasan and Israruddin Israr also spoke on the occasion.
Published in Dawn, November 11th, 2014