India weighs Brahamdagh Bugti’s asylum request

NEW DELHI: In an indication that the Indian government is serious about the Baloch cause, the home ministry has said that it had received Baloch separatist leader Brahamdagh Bugti’s request for an Indian identity card and travel papers and was examining it, The Hindu said on Friday.

It said the request was forwarded by the ministry of external affairs on Wednesday.

A home ministry official said that though a time frame could not be given for the request to be processed, it would be done at the earliest. Mr Bugti will have to undergo multiple layers of verification. The final call will be taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself.

The situation is so complex that the officials in the home ministry are digging through 1959 records to check the process, the paper said. The last time India allowed an asylum request was in 1959 to Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama by the Jawaharlal Nehru government.

Mr Bugti is currently in Switzerland and runs his political activities from there without official authorisation from the Swiss government, according to The Hindu. He filed the request with the Permanent Mission of India in Geneva on Tuesday.

“Even the term ‘refugee’ is not mentioned in any domestic law. India has not signed the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention on the Status of Refugees, or its 1967 Protocol that stipulates the rights host states must provide refugees,” the paper said.

Mr Bugti is president and founder of the Baloch Republican Party. He is the grandson of Nawab Akbar Bugti, who was killed in an action by the Pakistan Army in 2006. Islamabad had blamed New Delhi for helping Mr Bugti flee Pakistan to Geneva in 2010, the paper said. If granted asylum, Mr Bugti could be given a long-term visa to be renewed every year. The other scenario is that he will get a registration certificate with which he can travel anywhere, the home ministry official said.

Published in Dawn September 24th, 2016

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