Swiss-based supporters of the Baloch Republican Party have called for a freeze of international funding of Pakistan’s war on terror. They claim the funds are being used to carry out human rights violations in the province of Balochistan.
A group of around 50 Balochis demonstrated in front of the United Nations building in Geneva on Thursday. They denounced the actions of the Pakistani army and shouted slogans demanding freedom for the Balochistan province from Pakistan.
Rebel groups in Balochistan have been waging a separatist insurgency in Pakistan’s largest and western-most province since the 1960s, which the army has vowed to crush. 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.
“We want to request the international community, especially the United States to stop aiding Pakistan,” Brahamdagh Bugti, the Swiss-based leader of the Baloch Republican Party told swissinfo.ch. “American support to Pakistan for countering the Taliban insurgency is being used against the Baloch people.”
Currently, international NGOs and journalists are not allowed to visit Balochistan. Bugti wants the international community to put pressure on Pakistan to open up the province to international scrutiny.
“The international community is aware of the problem but not the scale of the problem: the mass graves, abductions by security agencies and indiscriminate bombing of Baloch villages,” said Bugti.
Bordering Iran and Afghanistan, Balochistan has always been a strategic location for Pakistan. The province attracted global attention when the Chinese announced plans to invest $46 billion (CHF42 billion) by 2030 in an economic corridor between Balochistan’s Gwadar port and China’s Xinjiang region. This will involve creating a network of highways, railways and pipelines to transport oil and gas.
Balochis are against the energy corridor, which they see as another attempt to enrich the government and divert wealth away from the province. Chinese engineers working on infrastructure projects have been attacked in Balochistan in the past, including those working on the Gwadar port itself in 2004.
“We condemn the Chinese intervention in Balochistan,” says Bugti. However, he admits that China's involvement has brought more international attention to the region.
When contacted, the Pakistani embassy in Bern declined to comment.