ISLAMABAD: The government has asked the Swiss authorities to reject the plea for political asylum made by Bramdagh Bugti, who heads an outlawed Baloch rebel group, and extradite him to Pakistan.
The authorities have yet to hear from Berne about their request, but they say the initial response of the Swiss government was that of consideration.
Bugti, 30, heads the separatist Baloch Republican Party and its militant wing, the Baloch Republican Army. He has been accused of attacks against settlers in Balochistan, government installations and armed forces.
The ‘proofs’ of his involvement in subversive activities have also been handed over to the Swiss officials, an official said.
But, on being questioned by Swiss authorities about Pakistani allegations, a Western diplomat said he denied them and alleged that he was facing threats to his life in Pakistan because of his “support for the freedom of Balochistan”.
He is the second rebel leader whose asylum has been officially opposed by the government. Islamabad had previously tried to block Hyrbyair Marri’s application for asylum in the United Kingdom. However, he succeeded in getting it this year after being initially rejected by the Home Office.
Bugti has been on the run since 2006 and initially took refuge in Afghanistan, where he stayed for almost four years. His stay in Afghanistan sparked a diplomatic row between Kabul and Islamabad, which had been demanding his handover.
The US and some of the Western countries, in an effort to defuse tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan and for improving their counter-terrorism cooperation, helped him to relocate to Switzerland, where he along with his family reached last year in October and sought asylum. A UN agency is also believed to have played an active role in facilitating his transfer to Switzerland via UAE.
According to a Pakistani security official Bugti traveled to Geneva on an Indian passport. The claim could, however, not be verified independently. Pakistan security agencies have long accused India of sponsoring his terrorist activities.
Pakistan doesn’t have an extradition treaty with Switzerland. However, the officials are still keeping their hopes about getting his asylum requested rejected and ultimately extradited.
“For extradition a treaty is not essential. A sovereign country can always extradite a foreign national on legally maintainable grounds. Such precedents also exist,” a Pakistani official following Bugti’s case explained.
But, what worries Islamabad is that Western governments have been generally sympathetic to Baloch separatists and some of them have, what some officials say: “indirectly patronized them”.
According to WikiLeaks, CIA station chief in December 2009 had discussed with Director General ISI Lt Gen Shuja Pasha the possibility of transferring Bugti to Ireland, which had promised asylum for him. But, Gen Pasha rejected the initiative stressing that he should be returned to Pakistan, where he would stand trial for his crime.
The proposal had been initiated by UNHCR, whose top brass desired to reciprocate the help by ‘Baloch people’ in recovering kidnapped UNHCR official John Solecki. Pakistani security agencies had alleged that Solecki had been kidnapped by Bugti and had asked US officials to directly speak to him (Bugti), while he was in Kabul.
The US had in February 2010 explored the possibility of swapping Bugti with Taliban leader Mullah Baradar, who was in the custody of Pakistani agencies. However, the idea was not encouraged by Pakistan. Mullah Baradar’s transfer was later also blocked through a court ruling.Ends