Switzerland rejecting my application for political asylum means we will have to work harder to convince the world about what’s happening in Balochistan, says Brahumdagh Bugti.
I got this sad news from the Swiss immigration department today that my application for political asylum has been rejected. They told my lawyer that they have rejected my case because of Pakistani allegations that I have links with guerrillas who are fighting against Pakistan’s government. They also said that there is another strong credible country that is supporting this argument of Pakistan.
To my mind, that one country can only be China.
Right now, I haven’t decided what my precise action will be next. I have to consult with my legal team. But we will challenge this decision in the European court.
I don’t have to leave Switzerland because of this rejection. But I will try other possibilities now. I have no idea about what will happen in the European court and whether our chances are better there. But I will try all possibilities.
I came to Switzerland in October 2010, and I filed for asylum in November.
When I came here, many people told me I should have gone to Germany, France or United Kingdom because it is easier in those countries to get asylum. I thought it would be better to be to be in Switzerland because the UN is here and that I can do my work here.
I did not know it would take so long, and after such a long wait the outcome will be negative. I was 200 per cent sure that I would get asylum.
I have been living here in Switzerland with my family—my wife, my three children and my 60-year old mother. We are all in shock now after hearing the news. My mother is very stressed.
This whole period of waiting has been stressful for all of us. As a politician, I have to travel, meet people and organise meetings, but my life here is like being in prison. All this while, we kept hoping that it is just a matter of six more months, one more year. And now this news that they have rejected it.
The Swiss authorities are just listening to Pakistan which is saying I am the biggest terrorist on earth. Why are they not seeing what Pakistan is doing in Balochistan? Pakistani forces are kidnapping and killing my people every day.
The mood was apparent a few days ago when Mehran Marri, our leader from Balochistan, was stopped from entering Switzerland. It is strange because he had been coming to Switzerland quite often, about four to five times every year. He was coming to Zurich last week to participate in a conference that I was hosting. It was very surprising to all of us.
Why is Switzerland acting like this suddenly? It just shows that Pakistan’s lobbying and China’s pressure are working.
China is building huge projects in Balochistan. We are against these projects. We have openly protested against it everywhere. It is our land, we are the owners. That land does not belong to either Pakistan or China.
The Swiss authorities are only believing what Pakistan is saying about us and ignoring the reality of what is happening in Balochistan. This rejection just means we have to work harder to convince them and the rest of the world.
My only request to the Indian government is: support us morally because they have a very strong voice in the world today. They can convince Western countries about the reality of Pakistan and what it is doing in Balochistan. India can tell the world that we are not terrorists, that we are asking for our basic rights, and that ours is a completely peaceful struggle.
When Indian PM Narendra Modi mentioned Balochistan in his speech, I am sure not too many people—apart from intellectuals, journalists and activists—in India even knew where Balochistan is. Many people must have tried to find out and read up about Balochistan only after Modi mentioned it. We need to tell the world about our struggles and our pain.
Today, Donald Trump is putting pressure on Pakistan, asking them to stop helping terrorists. But he hasn’t said anything about Balochistan and our struggle.
The rejection of my asylum application has nothing to do with international politics or with how the world sees our cause. It does not mean we have lost our supporters in the world. We do have friends who are elected members in Germany, France, European parliament, United Kingdom and in the US Congress too.
But the rejection does show that Switzerland is not a neutral country the way it projects itself to be. Decisions like today’s makes me believe it is not neutral.
I want to tell the Swiss authorities, “I am not asking for your country’s citizenship. I am here because there is no protection in Balochistan. Our political members have been kidnapped or killed.” Since 2005, something bad is happening to my people everyday. I keep hearing of incidents of torture and injustice—big and small.
If Pakistan says ‘he is terrorist’, I say to the authorities, “Come and sit in on our meeting and see us, hear us”. We want the Western world to be aware of what is happening to us. We do not hold hidden meetings. We are very open.
Our activities here are all about trying to highlight the situation in Balochistan. That is why we came here. We did not leave our land and come to the West to be safe and comfortable. What we cannot do in Balochistan, we can do in Switzerland, London and Paris. Every year, we hold protest rallies and hand out fliers, and speak at the United Nations about human rights violations.
This summer, we tried a few different tactics. We carried Free Baloch advertisements in many places. We wanted to explore new ways of campaigning, try something innovative. We wanted results. We used social media. These are the only things we can do in exile to change people’s perceptions.
Maybe, Pakistan was very irritated by all our protests and new style of campaigning. Maybe that’s why they put pressure on Switzerland.
I am not saying our campaign backfired. We will definitely do such things again. We will try more innovative campaign methods. We will not stop. The rejection of asylum is after all a small part of the larger struggle of my people. It will not change anything.
I have been living in exile, and will continue to be in exile.
After so many years away, you yearn for your own soil, you want to be among your own people. I miss the smell of my home. It is a totally different smell that is unique to my soil. You cannot compare it with any other country in the world.
Being away from home is a feeling you cannot explain. You can only feel it. It is very hard.
I am living in a golden cage. Switzerland is a beautiful country, it has beautiful weather, the people are very nice. But I cannot travel. My kids cannot go on holidays with their classmates. It is a sort of prison too.
Brahumdagh Bugti is the Swiss-based President of the Baloch Republican Party.
(As told to Rama Lakshmi, Editor, Opinion, ThePrint)