Interview
Brahumdagh Bugti, Baloch leader in exile digs in for the long haul.

The Swiss government this week rejected the asylum request of Brahumdagh Bugti, President of the Baloch Republican Party (BRP). Bugti, who lives near Geneva, has been waiting for the past seven years for word on his asylum request. A few days earlier, his UK-based brother-in-law Mehran Marri was not allowed to enter Switzerland, a country he has been visiting several times a year for over a decade and speaking at several human rights forums. While both situations have arisen from Pakistan upping the ante against Bugti and Marri, diplomats tell TNM that China’s hand cannot be discounted. “I am going to fight this. I will go to the European Court of Justice if necessary,” Bugti told TNM’s Chitra Subramaniam in an interview.

Here are excerpts.

Were you expecting the Swiss to reject your asylum request?

No. It came to us as a complete surprise. I have been living here for the past seven years in a golden cage. I cannot travel without the right papers. The reason I decided to come here was because I thought Switzerland was a neutral country. Geneva, the European capital of the United Nations (UN) is also where the world body’s Human Rights arm is situated. This is where people from all over the world come to seek justice and protection. I came with a lot of hope to the land of neutrality and human rights. All our protests seeking justice for Baloch people have been peaceful. Our people have spoken at UN forums according to the rules of procedure. We have not broken a single law either in Switzerland or other parts of Europe where we are present. We have an open invitation for people to come and meet us, see our work and understand our struggle. 

What next?

In consultation with party members and my lawyer, I am going to appeal the decision. It is blatantly unfair. We are not terrorists, miscreants or guerrillas as we have been called – in fact our people are being killed every day in Balochistan. The Swiss seem to have seen just one side of the story and based their decision on it. The situation in Balochistan is grave with almost daily massacres and killings. It is Pakistan which is supporting the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Internationally designated terrorists find shelter and home in Pakistan. So why not expel the Pakistani ambassador to Switzerland? Where is the logic here?

As for next steps, I am appealing this decision and will go to the European Court of Justice if necessary. We are not terrorists as Pakistan has called us – they are the terrorists and I remain confident that justice will prevail in our favour.

Do you see China as part of this equation?

Yes. They are very much a part of this. In fact, in the documents we received when my asylum status was rejected, it is mentioned that a third country does not want me to get asylum here. While the name of the country is not mentioned, we know it is China.

Members of the BRP have got asylum across Europe. What is the specific problem with Switzerland?

That is the question for which I too would like some answers. There are some 300,000 Baloch people living in Europe and the Middle-East. In France, Germany and the United Kingdom (UK), they get political asylum within weeks, sometimes within days. Over the past year, the BRP has made its presence felt across Europe and our struggle is getting a fair amount of attention. I know this is why Pakistan is worried, but the fact remains that their massacre and killing of people in Balochistan is being exposed internationally. We will continue our peaceful demonstrations, we will continue to expose what is being done to our people. 

Has the Indian government been in touch with you? Are you seeking asylum there?

No, they have not been in touch with me and I am not seeking asylum in India. That may have been an option a while ago, but for now, I am staying here and will fight for justice here.

Can you be expelled like your brother-in-law Mehran Marri was?

No. The Swiss government is not pushing me out, but I suspect they want to make it so difficult for me, that I leave on my own. That is not happening.