Indian prime minister Narendra Modi is said to be the best thing that happened to India in seven decades. Modi is also known to be great hugger, even hugging germaphobe President Donald Trump, who considers shaking hand as barbaric. But the question today is will he hug Brahumdagh Bugti, president of the Baloch Republican Party, as India’s own son as the Swiss government has rejected his asylum petition?
According to a news report in Geo TV, “A source in the Swiss government confirmed that Brahumdagh Bugti’s asylum application was turned down because of his links with “incidents of terrorism, violence and militant activities” and the rejection letter clearly sets out these allegations. Bugti confirmed to this correspondent that his asylum application has been rejected by the Swiss government on the basis of allegations that he has links with the banned Baloch Republican Army (BRA).”
First let me go back eight years. It was November 2009 when I first spoke with Brahumdagh Bugti, president of the Balochistan Republican Party. I got a call as I was organizing the first international conference on Balochistan in the nation’s capital on behalf of the American Friends of Balochistan. I thought it was the Khan of Kalat, with whom I had spoken a couple of times and the voice sounded quite familiar. But it was not the Khan from Cardiff, but Brahumdagh Bugti from Kabul.
Bugti said he wanted to seek asylum in the US and my first question was why doesn’t he go to India. “That was my first choice too. They are ready to provide us all assistance, but not asylum.”
At the time a Congress government was in power in New Delhi. India was being led by the dehati aurat or village woman — a term reportedly used by ousted premier Nawaz Sharif for his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh. Just four months earlier, mid-July, 2009 at the Sharm el-Sheikh, Cairo, the dehati aurat made the historical blunder of indirectly admitting India was inciting violence in Balochistan in his summit with his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani. India Today described the summit outcome as Manmohan Singh’s Balochistan blunder. Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir made a fool of Shiv Shankar Menon and so did Yusuf Raza Gilani make a chump of Dr Manmohan Singh, who prime minister Modi mockingly says, “knows how to shower in bathroom wearing a rain coat.” Let alone giving asylum to Bugti, it is widely reported that Congress pacifists at times even side with the jihadis in Kashmir– just to please Pakistan.
A year later Brahumdagh Bugti arrived in Switzerland along with family, afterwards joined by about a dozen members of his Bugti tribe. He had obtained special permit for the air travel from rulers of a Gulf nation who were friends of his assassinated grandfather, former governor and chief minister of Balochistan, Nawab Akbar Bugti.
Brahumdagh Bugti may have been in France instead of Switzerland had it not been for the massive attack on Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti’s home by the army on March 17. “The military forces started shelling the town of Dera Bugti, the headquarter of Bugti tribe and the ancestral home of the Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti. Rockets and mortars also targeted his house where he was attending a meeting with his tribesmen, but luckily he survived,” according to the web site of his party, the Baloch Republican Party. In that attack, Brahumdagh Bugti’s passport with French visa affixed on it got destroyed.
But why should India care about Balochistan?
Here are the reasons. As I consider the Baloch sons and daughters of Hinglaj Mata sakhtipeet (Hindu pilgrim site), I have always believed it is a religious and national duty of India to help the Baloch, the whole nine yards. More important than my subjective belief are historical facts that show the Baloch yearned to get freedom from the British as part of a united India but when they saw the British were bent upon dividing India, they demanded a free Balochistan.
From day one, the Baloch rejected the Two-Nation Theory of Pakistan’s tuberculosis ridden founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Just look at these words; they seem as if they are words printed today in a newspaper or magazine: “From whatever angle we look at the present government of Pakistan, we will see nothing but Punjabi fascism. The people have no say in it. It is the Army and arms that rule.” But this statement was made 69 years ago by the first hero of the Baloch uprising against Pakistan, Prince Abdul Karim, while he was in exile in Afghanistan. Prince Abdul Karim had used these words in a letter to his elder brother – the “King” or Khan of Kalat Mir Ahmadyar Khan – cited in The Politics of Ethnicity in Pakistan, by Farhan Hanif Siddiqi.
Historians wonder if India lost Balochistan and much of India territory to Pakistan because of Lady Edwina Mountbatten-crazed Nehru’s haste in becoming the prime minister? And they may be right in raising the question. Pawan Durani, a journalist and blogger from Srinagar, who now lives in Delhi, tweeted on October 26, 2012: “In 1947, the King of Kalat [ #Balochistan ] acceded 2 #India. Unfortunately Nehru rejected that. Rest is history. Baloch cont 2 suffer.”
London-based think-tank The Foreign Policy Center, FPC, concurs that the Baloch were let down not only by the British but also by the founding fathers of India. The story goes thus. The Baloch sovereign Khan of Kalat Mir Ahmadyar Khan, whose most tragic blunder was to have Muhammad Ali Jinnah as his lawyer in his legal dealings with the British Raj, was said to be very fond of listening to the All India Radio (AIR) broadcasts in the evenings. On March 27, 1948, what he had heard on an AIR broadcast left the Khan of Kalat shell-shocked. The FPC cites an AIR broadcast from that day, which reported a press conference by VP Menon, the secretary in the Ministry of States: “Menon revealed that the Khan of Kalat was pressing India to accept Kalat’s accession, but added that India would have nothing to do with it.”
Hakim Baloch, a former chief secretary of Balochistan, author and historian, who has written several books on Balochistan, agrees that AIR did indeed broadcast Menon’s statement – the very next day, Sardar Patel issued a contradiction that no such request from the Khan of Kalat was ever received by India. Again on March 30, 1948, Nehru went to great lengths to deny what VP Menon had said. The Khan of Kalat too denied the report, but by this time, the Pakistani guns were pointing at the Khan’s head.
As India’s founding fathers closed their eyes on Balochistan, Pakistan was already working overtime to occupy Balochistan. For example, on March 22, 1948 Pakistan prime minister Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan presided over a meeting of the three services chief to oversee the military invasion of Kalat and Mekran. “He was briefed by the army, air force and navy chiefs about the steps these armed services have taken in a number of Balochistan cities, such as Turbat, Pasni,” says Quetta-based Baloch scholar Surat Khan Marri.
While Indian leaders were busy issuing contradictory statements, Pakistan acted swiftly. According to human rights defender Waseem Altaf in Viewpoint: “On orders emanating from Mr Jinnah, Balochistan was forcibly annexed to Pakistan on 28th March 1948 when on 27th March 1948, Lt Colonel Gulzar of the 7th Baluch Regiment under GOC Major General Mohammad Akbar Khan invaded the Khanate of Kalat. General Akbar dragged the Khan of Kalat to Karachi and forced him to sign on the instruments of accession while Pakistan Navy’s destroyers reached Pasni and Jiwani.”
The Khan of Kalat tried his best to retain the independent status of his state, knocking every neighbor’s door. “The Khan of Kalat had tried for an arrangement with both Iran and Afghanistan as well,” said Hakim Baloch. “He had also pondered over a deal with London on the lines that the UK had with Oman,” he added. That deal envisaged Balochistan to remain a British protectorate for 25 years– to emerge on the world map by 1972.
In March 1946, Baloch nationalist leaders went to India to meet with Congress leaders to seek support for a free Balochistan. The team was led by Mir Ghaus Baksh Bizenjo, president of the Kalat State National Party. They met Congress president Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.
Bizenjo, who later became the governor of Balochistan confirmed to me four decades later in 1988– a year before his death– that Azad refused to support a free Balochistan on the grounds that raising the issue would give the British colonialists a pretext to delay their departure from India. I had asked Bizenjo, who used to stay at my uncle’s Mustikhan Lodge in Karachi, why he had changed his stance from being an advocate for a free Balochistan in 1946 to demanding provincial autonomy in his political career, later. Bizenjo said after India’s refusal to stand with the idea of a free Balochistan, he calculated that the Baloch were not in a position to fight Pakistan’s military might on their own, so he toned down his demand to provincial autonomy. According to scholar Hakim Baloch, “Maulana Azad believed that Balochistan would not be a stable state.” Azad ruled out any help to Balochistan as he believed an independent Balochistan will serve as a British base and would undermine the independence of the subcontinent.”
In hindsight, Maulana Azad’s stance was proven to be flawed: Pakistan became the renter state of the US-West, Saudi Arabia and now China continuously causing grief to India. Vikram Sood, former Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) chief, points out to the visits of Baloch leaders to India, including the Khan of Kalat. “They wanted to draw attention to the fact that their state was different and wanted to be treated on par with Nepal,” Sood wrote in an article in February 2006, when Baloch statesman Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti was still alive. The former RAW official regrets that the founding fathers of modern India were too engrossed with Kashmir and Hyderabad to see the strategic significance of a sovereign Balochistan.
While the Pakistan Army occupied Balochistan, according to another Indian scholar Deepak Basu, “India stood by silently. Lord Mountbatten, Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru or Maulana Azad, then the president of India’s Congress Party, said nothing about the rape of Balochistan.”
On August 15, 1947 Jinnah recognized Kalat State (a huge chunk of Balochistan) as a free state. The state had a foreign minister named Douglas Yates Fell, while my late uncle A. Sattar Mustikhan became Kalat state’s ambassador to Pakistan. The national flag of Kalat state flew over our family home in Karachi’s Gandhi Garden district from August 15, 1947 to March 28, 1948.
Balochistan has a rich Hindu heritage. In addition to Hinglaj Mata sakhti peet and one of the world’s oldest Hindu civilization sites Mehergarh, it is a fact Kalat, the center of Baloch tribal confederacy, was once called Kalat-e-Sewa (Sewa’s Fort), after Sewa, a legendary Hindu hero of the Brahui-speaking Baloch people.
Some Indians believe that had the Baloch leaders in 1946 met with Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel instead of meeting Maulana Azad, the results may have been different. These same nationalists also believe prime minister Modi wants justice for Balochistan, not merely use Baloch as proxies in tit-for-tat war games over Kashmir. We hope they are right and Shri Narendra Modi Ji will welcome Brahumdagh Bugti to India so everyone in the world, including Balochistan, knows Mother India does care for her Baloch sons.
The main reason why the Swiss have not taken into account the brutalities that Bugti has faced at the hands of Pakistan army and ISI– killing of more than 7,000 of his tribesmen including his grandfather, sister Zamur Domki and niece Jaana Domki– is that Switzerland is a highly racist society. A recent Universal Periodic Review by the UN just 12 days ago asked Switzerland to do more to fight against racism.