We request Indian govt to support the Baloch movement: Brahamdagh Bugti
New Delhi: Attending a meeting to discuss the unrest in Kashmir last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India would highlight the human rights situation in Balochistan. Modi’s plan may have been meant as a counter to Pakistan’s campaign to focus on alleged human rights violations in Indian Kashmir. But it has raised hopes among the Baloch people living in exile. The 35-year-old founder of the Baloch Republican Party, Brahamdagh Bugti, whose grandfather, Nawab Akbar Bugti, was killed in 2006 in a Pakistan military operation, says he wants to seek political asylum in India. Edited excerpts from an interview:
It’s been a month now since Prime Minister Narendra Modi referred to Balochistan. Has the Indian government contacted your people since then?
No, there has been no direct contact of any kind with the Indian government.
Has the Indian government previously supported the Baloch movement in any way?
No, this is incorrect. This is Pakistani propaganda.
Have you applied for political asylum in India?
Yes, we (our party) officially decided that I will apply for asylum in India. I will be going to the Indian embassy in Berne and putting in my application.
What if India denies you asylum?
I don’t think India will do that. The reason I want asylum in India is that though I have protection in Switzerland, I am not getting political status and travel papers. I want to travel and campaign for my people, present the Baloch case before the US Congress, the US administration. I don’t think India will reject my asylum application.
Now that Modi has said India will highlight the situation in Balochistan, what are your expectations?
Modi has put the focus on our situation; he has spoken about it and then the Indian media highlighted this. I think it’s important that Balochistan is highlighted—what Pakistan is doing in terms of violation of human rights. It is the responsibility of the Indian government and the Indian media to highlight that internationally. India is a big country and the biggest democracy. So I think India needs to play a role to highlight the Balochistan situation in the western world to counter what Pakistan is doing right now (sending envoys to western capitals to highlight alleged human rights violations in Kashmir), using all its diplomatic tools. India should do the same (highlight the Baloch situation)—through conferences, side events at the United Nations.
It is our request to the Indian government to support the Baloch movement. When the Indian PM has mentioned the human rights situation in Balochistan, it is his responsibility to highlight it as much as possible at international fora. I am not asking for a military attack on Pakistan, but to stop them from the kind of atrocities they are committing in Balochistan. If the funding Pakistan gets from international institutions like the International Monetary Fund is made conditional on them stopping atrocities in Balochistan, they will fall in line.
But Pakistan says it’s fighting an insurgency in Balochistan.
If anyone thinks I am making all this up, why doesn’t a United Nations fact-finding team go there and assess the situation?
There are reports that you are using an Indian passport. Is that correct?
No it is not.
Pakistan tries to draw a parallel between what is happening in Indian Kashmir and in Balochistan. Is that correct?
No, not at all. Let me make it clear that Balochistan was divided into two when the British were ruling the subcontinent. One was called British Balochistan and the other the state of Balochistan. British Balochistan was handed over to Pakistan at the time of partition (of the subcontinent) in 1947. The state of Balochistan was taken over by Pakistan. Both happened against the will of the people. When Pakistan was created, there was further division of the Baloch people because some areas of Balochistan were incorporated into Sindh, some into other parts of Pakistan. It was a tactical move by the Punjabi ruling elite to keep the Baloch divided.
So, I don’t think there is any similarity with the situation in Indian Kashmir. There are no military jets bombing Kashmir. There are no tanks out in the streets and no helicopter gunships firing from overhead.
What is it like living in exile?
Let me put it this way. The Baloch people are not regarded as terrorists at all. Only Pakistan sees them as terrorists. In the western world, we get asylum and a place to stay. Only the Pakistani government will say that we are more dangerous than the Al Qaeda. Everybody knows we are being persecuted... There is a limit to tolerance and that has been breached and we do not want to be part of Pakistan any more. So our movement right now is focusing on independence for Balochistan.
This is the fifth wave of campaign by the Baloch people against Pakistan. What are you fighting for?
At first. the Baloch people and their leaders—like my grandfather (Nawab Akbar Bugti)—were of the view that let us remain as a part of Pakistan and see how this goes, see that we get equal rights like all other citizens. Every time we spoke of our rights, there was a military operation launched against us. It’s been 50 years, we have been treated like slaves. There are development projects decided with China, it is decided in Punjab and not with the Baloch people. If China builds Gwadar port (in Balochistan), the decision is taken in Islamabad (without involving the Baloch people). There are army operations, killings, torture. So I don’t think we are fools to say we will give them one more chance.
The US last week said it is not in favour of an independent Balochistan.
I consider it unfortunate that they are not supporting us today. That is their decision. I think in the near future they will regret they said this and they will support our freedom movement. I say this because the US administration has made some wrong decisions in the past and they are realizing this now. I am definitely sure they will support the independence movement of Balochistan very soon.
Will the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) bring prosperity to Balochistan?
The people of Balochistan want to decide their future themselves. No one has any right to decide our future. They are launching military operations against us. Even on Eid (last week) in Dera Bugti, there was a big military operation on—more than 100 people picked up and more than 50 people killed. These include women and children. So, if the Pakistan government talks about development, it’s only for Punjab and Lahore. On the one hand they are killing us and then they say CPEC is for our development? They only want Baloch land and Baloch resources minus the Baloch people.