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Balochistan Separatist Leader Seeks Indian Asylum

Brahamdagh Bugti (c) reading from a paper during a party meeting in Geneva on September 19.
Brahamdagh Bugti (c) reading from a paper during a party meeting in Geneva on September 19.

An exiled separatist leader from Pakistan’s restive southwestern province of Balochistan has decided to seek asylum from the country’s archrival, India.

On September 19 Brahamdagh Bugti, the leader of the Baloch Republican Party (BRP), announced he will formally file an asylum application at the Indian Embassy in Switzerland’s capital, Bern. Bugti has been living in the country since 2011 after nearly five years of exile in Afghanistan.

“Our central committee backed this decision, and he will file the application within the next week,” said BRP spokesman Sher Muhammad Bugti.

He added that the party will file a case in the International Criminal Court against Pakistani military generals for committing alleged atrocities. “We will also approach the International Court of Justice against the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor with the help of some friendly countries,” Sher Bugti said.

The BRP said that India, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh will back its petition against China. It is not clear whether the two international courts will accept such applications from the BRP.

Bugti’s asylum application comes at a time when relations between Islamabad and New Delhi appear to be on a downward spiral.

Rajnath Singh, India’s home minister, appeared to accuse Pakistan for a September 18 attack in which 17 soldiers were killed in an Indian Army base in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

“I am deeply disappointed with Pakistan’s continued and direct support to terrorism and terrorist groups,” Singh wrote on Twitter.

Islamabad, however, rejected his accusation in a Foreign Affairs Ministry statement on September 18.

“Pakistan categorically rejects the baseless and irresponsible accusations being leveled by senior officials in [Indian] Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi's government,” the statement said.

Bugti, now in his 30s, joined a Baluch nationalist insurrection under the leadership of his grandfather, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, to demand greater autonomy for the resource-rich but impoverished region bordering Afghanistan, Iran, and the Gulf.

He went into exile in neighboring Afghanistan after the August 2006 killing of Nawab Bugti in a Pakistani military operation. Incessant attack on his hideouts forced him to move to Switzerland in 2011.

His secret meeting with senior Pakistani officials last year failed to translate into formal negotiations with Islamabad.

The BRP rejects assertions that Bugti’s asylum application is prompted by the reported rejection of a similar application in Switzerland in January.