Why Must the West Protect Bramdagh Bugti’s Life?

While several petitions are already pending in different Pakistani courts seeking that top military officers, including former chief of the army General Pervez Musharraf, be brought to justice for extra-judicially killing a leading Baloch nationalist leader, Nawab Akbar Bugti, Pakistani authorities are now making every effort to kill his thirty-year old grandson Nawabzada Bramdagh Bugti, a popularr nationalist leader,  for his dissenting political views.

The life of Mr. Bugti and his family will be absolutely jeopardized if the Swiss government concedes to a fresh but absolutely unreasonable request by Islamabad demanding the extradition of the popular Baloch leader. Every person, who fears persecution in his native country because of his political views, has a fundamental right to seek asylum. Mr. Bugti represents a ethnic minority in Pakistani whose top politicians, lawyers, journalists, doctors and writers have been systematically tortured and killed by secrete services affiliated to the Pakistani government. The Balochs, whose land is rich with gas, oil, gold and copper, are subjected to extreme brutalities because they are seeking independence from Pakistan and the right to benefit from their natural resources.

There is sufficient evidence we have come cross through reports issued by highly reputed organizations like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, International Crisis Group (ICG), Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Committee to Protect Journalists and several other groups which indicate that the Pakistani authorities are engaged in a slow-motion genocide of the Baloch people. Thousands of Balochs have disappeared and hundreds of them have been brutally and extra-judicially killed.

Mr. Bugti belongs to a family which has historically remained engaged in political struggle while living within the federation of Pakistan. His grandfather, Nawab Bugti, headed a leading political party called the Jamori Watan Party (JWP) and devoted his whole life to peaceful democratic struggle. The Bugtis were driven out of their homes only after former military dictator Pervez Musharraf unleashed a deadly operation in the gas-rich Dera Bugti district. At least two hundred thousand Balochs ended up as internally displaced persons (IDPs). The government has not resettled these IDPs until now.

There have been repeated calls from international organizations asking Islamabad to stop persecuting the Balochs and provide an accountability for the killings of Baloch political activists and professionals. All such requests  were arrogantly snubbed by Islamabad which is utterly ‘diversity blind’ in its approach toward Balochistan. Under the strictly centralized Pakistani federal system, the central government is bent upon imposing an isolationist radical Islamic-Pakistani identity on the secular Baloch. When the Balochs seek justice, they are dealt with more arrests, torture and killings.

It is ironic that Islamabad continued to provide shelter to Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden for five years without ever truly dealing him as a terrorist. Likewise, several Islamic terrorists involved in carrying out acts of terrorism inside India and Indian-administered Kashmir, such as the head of the Lashkar-e-Taiba,  are roaming freely inside Pakistan.

Yet, Islamabad calls Balochs as ‘terrorists’ who have a long history of democratic struggle. Perhaps no province in Pakistan has as many nationalist political parties and annual conventions as Balochistan does. Balochistan has a highly politicized, argumentative and polarized political culture which is unseen elsewhere in Pakistan. In addition, it is the only province where political parties and their student wings regularly hold study circles, lectures and publish booklets to promote democratic values.

Being a democrat, liberal and secular in the ‘land of pure’ does not come without a heavy price. We are sure Pakistan’s defination of ‘terrorism’ is not recognized and accepted by the international community. A country that protests over the killing of Osama bin Laden, the world’s most dangerous terrorist, casts doubts to its own commitment to the war on terrorism.

It is a historic tragedy how Pakistani has punished highly committed Baloch political leaders in the past. In 1973, the first ever elected Baloch government was disdainfully ousted and the elected chief minister of the province was imprisoned along with his governor.

In 2006, Nawab Akbar Bugti, a former governor and chief minister, was killed by the Pakistani army. Another Baloch chief minister who was jailed under fake charges was Sardar Akhtar Mengal. Mengal was literally put into an iron cage, as reported by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), during the grusome days of Musharraf’s martial law. A  former Senator and the secretary general of the Balochistan National Party (BNP) Habib Jalib Baloch was killed in 2010 allegedly by government-backed death squads.

In such violent times, why wouldn’t Mr. Bugti also face torture and murder if he is forced to return to Pakistan? Pakistan is not safe for him and his family until Islamabad completely ends its military occupation of Balochistan; release thousands of disappeared people and resettle two hundred thousand internally displaced Marri and Bugti tribesmen to their native districts.

It is important that the governments of the United States, UK, the European Union and particularly Switzerland urge Islamabad to stop forging fake cases against Baloch leaders. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International  should testify before the Swiss authorities to confirm how legitimate Mr. Bugti’s fears are.

Switzerland is globally respected for its neutrality with regards to political disputes. We sincerely hope they will examine Mr. Bugti’s case on priority basis and ensure his personal safety. It is highly commendable that certain western governments, particularity the United States, UK and Norway have recently sympathetically considered the asylum requests of Baloch leaders and activists because they find the Baloch concerns based on well-grounded fear of persecution.

This world needs more respect and protection for political dissenters. The Swiss authorities must understand that Mr. Bugti is the head of a widely popular non-violent Baloch Republican Party (BRP). If he is handed over to the Pakistani authorities, he will tortured and killed like many hundreds of other Baloch leaders and supporters in an effort to further suppress the Baloch demands.


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