Pakistan has strongly protested over posters and billboards titled ‘Free Balochistan’ with the Swiss government. The posters are put up by an organisation named Balochistan House, which is supposedly linked with the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA). In a letter to the Swiss government, Pakistan’s permanent representative in UN, Maleeha Lodhi, raised the issue and called it disrespectful and a direct attack on the sovereignty of Pakistan. Lodhi urged the Swiss government to take immediate action, as BLA has been declared a terrorist organisation by Pakistan. In 1920, the newly formed League of Nations officially recognised Swiss neutrality and established its headquarters in Geneva. Even today, Geneva hosts scores of UN program offices and other international forums. Anyhow, it was a rather strange sight that the heavily political‘Free Balochistan’ posters were displayed in a neutral country. At present, Brahamdagh Bugti is staying in Switzerland, but has been moving up and down during his self-exile. He has so far not been given political asylum, as Switzerland has strict laws for asylum seekers. As a rule, an asylum seeker whose application is rejected must return to his country of origin. If there is genuine reason, he is issued a provisional residence permit, called an F permit. The F permit entails a great number of restrictions for its holder, which means that the affected persons sometimes have to live in a temporary arrangement for years. Right to travel is also restricted for holders of provisional residence permits. The chief of the outlawed Baloch Republican Party had applied for asylum in February 2011, following the death of Nawab Akbar Bugti,however, he is still living without official authorisation. ‘The Swiss are doing everything to create circumstances that have turned me into an open-air prisoner. I hope that Indian people, those who gave refuge to Dalai Lama and supported Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, would recognise the risk that I am facing’ — Brahamdagh Bugti Swiss authorities do not give asylum to those with links in organisations involved in killings, unlawful and terrorist acts. It was in this backdrop that Swiss authorities had refused asylum to Brahamdagh Bugti earlier. In January 2016, his application for asylum was rejected again. Home Secretary Balochistan, Akbar Hussain Durrani had said, “We are satisfied that the Swiss authorities accepted our stance over Baloch insurgency in Pakistan.” In September 2016, Brahamdagh Khan Bugti said that Pakistan was trying to create international pressure by issuing a ‘red notice’ against him, and sought India’s intervention to ensure safety for himself and his companions. In an interview with Indian newspaper, The Hindu, Brahamdagh Bugti desired to seek an official Indian ID and travel documents. Perhaps his application is under consideration, and India will take the decision at a time it deems fit. Brahamdagh Bugti claimed that the Swiss government declined his application for an official ID in January 2016 on the grounds that his party is on the terror watch list. “Short of physically preventing me, the Swiss are doing everything to create circumstances that have turned me into an open-air prisoner. I hope that Indian people, those who gave refuge to Dalai Lama and supported Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, would recognise the risk that I am facing,” he said. In Pakistan, terrorists linked with BLA and other banned religious outfits have been carrying out attacks on personnel of law enforcement agencies and civilian. Pakistan has time and again blamed India for funding the Baloch, and religious groups. These claims have been backed by reports from several senior Western officials who have accused India of funding terrorists to destabilise Pakistan. A confirmation of this allegation had come from former US defence Secretary Senator Chuck Hagel, who in a video uploaded in 2011,suggested,“India has over the years financed problems for Pakistan using Afghan soil.” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his speech on India’s National Day on August 15, 2016, had said, “The time has come when Pakistan shall have to answer to the world for the atrocities committed by it against people in Balochistan.” Something sinister is being played around Pakistan. Unfortunately, European countries house dissidents like Khan of Kalat Mir Suleman Khan Dawood in Birmingham, Harbyar Marri in London, and others elsewhere who project the Balochistan issue to make it more prominent on an international level. In February 2012, nearly a week after he chaired a congressional hearing on Balochistan, US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher had introduced a resolution in the US House of Representatives calling upon Pakistan to recognise the Baloch right to self-determination.The motion, which had been co-sponsored by House Representatives, Louie Gohmert and Steve King, highlighted Balochistan’s troubled past with the centre after the creation of Pakistan. It stated, “Balochistan is currently divided between Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan with no sovereign rights of its own. In the Pakistani Balochistan people are subjected to violence and extrajudicial killing.”Such resolutions moved by a tiny minority may not have any importance, but it helps Pakistan and its institutions into disrepute. Meddling of some half-a-dozen US panjandrums berthed in the Congress in a matter, which is strictly an internal affair of Pakistan, is indeed condemnable. The State Department had distanced itself from their contemptible audacity, stating that neither was it involved nor did it participate, in their impudent venture.But neither the deep interest of the US in Balochistan nor its deep infestation of this crucial province of Pakistan is any obscure. Balochistan’s enviously-prized coastline and its critical strategic location lurks temptingly not just in the eyes of neoconservatives like Dana Rohrabacher, a habitual Pakistan-bashing Republican Congressman, who had organised the above hearing. Both its armchair and active-duty strategists stood swayed by the dream of controlling the crucially placed Balochistan to project the US power and influence in the region and beyond. The writer is a freelance columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Daily Times, September 24th 2017.