Brahumdagh Bugti, the President of the Baloch Republican Party (BRP) will formally seek asylum in India later this month, he has told The News Minute (TNM). This move comes after weeks of consultations with members of the BRP leadership living in Balochistan and Europe and with international lawyers well-versed in matters of third country asylum and responsibilities of the international community.
“I have convened a meeting of BRP’s central committee (September 18th – 19th) in Geneva and we have three key agenda items," Bugti told TNM is an exclusive conversation.
The meeting will delve into three related agenda items which they see as a critical step in their movement towards independence from Pakistan. The first is to formally seek asylum for “myself, my family and other people from Balochistan for whom we are requesting that Indian open its doors.” Seven members of the 16-member BRP will be present at the Geneva meeting which will be coordinating its work with a team of international lawyers. "If the Indian authorities grant us asylum, we would be there at the earliest,“ he said.
“The second point in our agenda is to see what international legal instruments are available to us to sue Pakistani Generals who are committing genocide and mass extermination of the Baloch people. Mass killings and missing persons are a daily occurrence and we will explore all our legal options to bring the Pakistani Generals to face justice,” Bugti said. He added that in addition to Geneva, BRP members from Germany, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom (UK) will also individually explore options to sue Pakistani general in countries where they are seeking asylum.
“Finally, we need to discuss what to do with China which is exploiting out natural resources. This is being done without the will of the Baloch people and this must be stopped,” Bugti said. He added that taking on China was 'no easy task' but hoped Beijing would see that Pakistan was being increasingly isolated in the international arena.
The meeting next week will see BRP members from Germany, London, Norway, Sweden, as well as Switzerland come together for the first time since August 15 after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about human rights violations in Balochistan causing ripples across the region and the world. While commentators say this is a turning point in India’s foreign policy in the region, others are taking a more cautious wait-and-wait stand looking for next signals.
Quetta is the capital of the western province of Balochistan in Pakistan which borders Afghanistan. Bugti’s decision to write to India comes after weeks deliberations with Balochs in exile and several media interactions where he has made clear his decision to separate from Pakistan "as the only option." The September meeting comes of the on the sidelines of a human rights meet of the United Nations (UN) in Geneva. Baloch leaders are expected to address the UN body as well as gather around the symbolic Broken Chair – a massive chair at the gates of the UN which has one missing leg. Over the years, the structure has come to symbolise injustice in all its manifestations.
Bugti told TNM no member of the Indian government has been in touch with him and he is hoping that once the formal request is submitted, there could be some movement. Should that conversation with India begin – as some officers have welcomed in interviews with news networks – New Delhi will be dealing with a hot potato of major significance.
Prime Minister Modi’s statement on human rights violations in Balochistan have already stirred the regional pot significantly with some commentators calling it a tectonic shift in the region. Both Indian and the Baloch leadership are aware of China which calls the shots in the region should there be any escalation spurred by accident or by design. “We are yet to take a decision on what to do with China, but the world has to know Gwadar from where they are extracting oil and gas is disputed territory,” Bugti said.
The Baloch separatist leader’s asylum request in Switzerland has been pending for some six years. While his safety and security is ensured, Bugti said he feels like he is in a “golden cage.” I am not allowed to move to other countries for campaigning, I have to meet people in Europe and other parts of the world – I have no travel documents.”
The absence of travel documents has meant that Bugti and his family live in Geneva without the latter taking part in any political activities of the party in the UN and other parts of Europe. “What is interesting is that on the basis of a letter from me, other Balochs are getting asylum in France and Germany and the UK, but I have not been able to get a similar status here,” he says adding that it is probably Pakistan applying pressure on the Swiss government. "This means I cannot travel to capitals of the world to apprise leaders first hand about the plight of our people, Bugti said.
It may be recalled that Bugti fled his hometown Dera Bugti in Balochistan in 2005-2006 following the assassination of his grandfather Akbar Bugti who was briefly the governor of the province. The Bugtis are the largest Baloch tribe. Bugti himself escaped two assassination attempts both in Afghanistan where he had sought asylum under the watchful eye of former President Hamid Karzai. Nawab Akbar Bugti, the head of the tribe had been a member of the Pakistani government for short periods but always held out three demands of the Baloch people – ownership of resources, equal share and provincial autonomy. “Gas reserves were discovered in Dera Bugti in the 1950s, where as Gwadar, which is a deep-sea port, will be accessed by China as a part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corrdidor (CPEC) – yet we live like in the stone-age,” Bugti says. “We appeal to the international community, especially the world’s powerful democracies to assist the Baloch people – our struggle is just and it is fair,” he added.