Although Switzerland’s efforts at supporting basic freedoms are laudable on many fronts, it should be careful not to swing in the favour of groups that are involved in militant activities in other countries.
The Pakistan embassy in Geneva has already lodged a complaint with the Swiss government for allowing the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) to spread its propaganda in the form of posters put in a part of Geneva city. The BLA is not only banned in Pakistan but also in the UK and by the US State Department who consider their actions as acts of terrorism. Pakistani envoy, Farukh Amil, in his meeting with permanent representative of the Swiss government to the United Nations, also brought up the Swiss government’s support for an organisation called Baluchistan House. The Balochistan House was the sponsor of the poster campaign and is widely believed to be an affiliate of the BLA.
The BLA has taken credit for a slew of attacks on security officials as well as civilians in Pakistan since 2003.
Importantly, the advertisements in Geneva appeared on the same day that the World Baloch Organisation (WBO) held a protest demonstration in front of the UNHCR on the human rights situation in Balochistan. The protestors also voiced their concerns regarding China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which, they held, was being implemented without regards to the rights of the Baloch people. The protesters’ claim that the Baloch have not been taken into confidence over corridor projects is not entirely valid. Though concerns raised by neutral and impartial observers over the (lack of) fairness in 2013 provincial elections in Balochistan remain to be investigated, a civilian government has, nonetheless, been in office in the province ever since. The government may have been far from perfect in terms of its ability to represent the aspirations of the people of the province but that is a problem of democratic institutions all over Pakistan. The cure lies in strengthening these institutions — in Balochistan as well as in rest of the country.
By appealing to the Swiss government to not allow space to militant outfits, we are neither turning our attention away from these problems of governance not feigning ignorance to the peculiar political history of Balochistan that goes back to the British colonial rule in the region.
Instead we fully acknowledge Baloch grievances but we hold that solution to these problems in Balochistan lies in strengthening of civilian institutions, and allowing them to govern the province and decide its trajectory within the Pakistani federal framework. Violence and militancy does not yield in durable solutions to problems of life and livelihood. *
Published in Daily Times, September 20th2017