Islamabad - An anti-terrorism court in Gilgit has sent a senior lawyer and a vocal political activist behind the bars on charges of “hurting religious sentiments of the people” by sharing a searing post on the social media.

Senior lawyer and Gilgit-Baltistan Supreme Appellate Court Bar Association President Ehsan Ali, who was arrested by the Jutial police on early Monday morning after two FIRs were lodged against him, accusing him of sharing a controversial post on his Facebook account about an Iranian woman — who has taken part in the recent public demonstrations in Iran — perching on the pulpit of a mosque without covering her head.

According to one FIR lodged with the Danyor police, the senior lawyer has not only committed “blasphemy but also made fun of principle tenets of Islam”.

ATC judge Raja Shahbaz Khan sent the arrested lawyer on judicial remand till February 26 under 295-A, punishable for a term which may extend to 10 years with fine.

The sudden arrest and judicial remand of the senior lawyer has taken the lawyers community, political workers and the locals by surprise, who said there was more to it than meets the eye. Before the arrest of the rights activist and lawyer, a smear campaign was launched against him by unidentified hands, plastering walls with graffiti and posters, calling him an “atheist” and “agnostic”.

The detained lawyer had also been at the forefront of recent protests in Gilgit-Baltistan, opposing the imposition of taxes by the federal government without giving basic human and constitutional rights to the subjects. His activism during the protests had kept the powers that be on their toe, who used every tactic to defuse the protests only to gain momentum with each passing day until the taxes were fully withdrawn.

Talking to The Nation, senior advocate and Pakistan People’s Party GB President Amjad Hussain said that putting the senior lawyer and political activist behind the bars was nothing but gagging the sole voice of the already politically and constitutionally-deprived people of the G-B.

“The charges against our senior colleague Ahsan Ali are nothing but a ploy to silence voices demanding political and constitutional rights to the people of G-B. Such actions will only add fuel to the fire,” said Hussain demanding setting up a judicial system in G-B on the pattern of Pakistan to deal with such cases. He said that a committee set up by the federal government had recommended giving full legal and constitutional rights to the people of G-B, but the central government swept it under the carpet for reasons known to none. Hussain also said that the G-B leadership also failed to present a collective narrative for the rights of the people, with religious and political leaders distributing “certificates of traitor and double agent” against those who demanded constitutional rights.

Another lawyer, wishing not to be named, said that state machinery was creating the atmosphere of fear among the locals who have just awoken from the long slumber to get their rights. He said that the arrest of the senior lawyer soon after the death of renowned lawyer Asma Jahangir had a symbolic connection, as according to him, the late rights champion was the only figure who stood shoulder to shoulder with the G-B people be it the issue of their constitutional rights or the incarceration of political workers under the Fourth Schedule, whenever they demanded civil and constitutional rights.