Switzerland is unlikely to comply with an extradition request made by the Pakistani government to hand over a political asylum seeker. Brahamdagh Bugti, Baloch Republican Party leader, tells swissinfo.ch that extradition would mean death.
Pakistani media have claimed that the government in Islamabad is in the process of sending extradition requests for Baloch exiles in Switzerland, Britain, India, Afghanistan and Iran.
Exiled in Switzerland, Bugti is among the Baloch leaders listed. His party’s slogan is “Struggle for an independent and sovereign Baloch state”.
Rebel groups in Balochistan have been waging a separatist insurgency in the western province since the 1960s. They have been demanding greater autonomy, a bigger share of the natural resource revenue from the province – Pakistan’s largest – as well as complete independence from Pakistan in some cases.
No extradition treaty
The Swiss foreign ministry refused to confirm that it had received an extradition request for Bugti from Pakistan.
“The Swiss and Pakistani authorities are in regular contact over different issues on several levels,” a foreign ministry spokesperson told swissinfo.ch. “The content of these exchanges is confidential.”
But a spokesperson from the Swiss justice ministry confirmed that no bilateral extradition treaty exists between Switzerland and Pakistan. Swiss laws still allow for handing over a wanted person based on reciprocity even in the absence of an extradition treaty.
However, it is unlikely that Bugti will be sent to Pakistan, as the spokesperson referred to the section on “inadmissibility of requests” under Switzerland’s Mutual Assistance Act, IMAC.
The section states that Switzerland can refuse to cooperate with extradition requests if the authorities believe that the requests “are being conducted so as to prosecute or punish a person on account of his political opinions…”.
“I arrived in Switzerland in 2010 and applied for political asylum,” Bugti told swissinfo.ch. He is currently in limbo, as the Swiss authorities are still assessing his asylum request.
He is clear about what he thinks would happen to him if returned to Pakistan. “I will be tortured and killed in Pakistan, like what is happening to so many Balochis there,” he said.
He believes that Pakistan’s extradition demands are a symbolic gesture designed to appease the Chinese, who are investing $46 billion (CHF42 billion) in an economic corridor between Balochistan’s Gwadar port and China’s Xinjiang region. Chinese engineers working on infrastructure projects have been attacked in Balochistan in the past, including those working on the Gwadar port itself in 2004.
Bugti warns that the region could become as volatile as Syria or Libya and could affect Western countries. He also calls for the international community to intervene before it is too late.