by Murtaza Ali Shah
LONDON: A well-known Baloch leader has cried foul after the Home Office rejected his political asylum application.
Baloch leader Hyrbyair Marri, one of six sons of veteran Baloch leader Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri, had reluctantly applied for political asylum in Britain for himself and his wife and 5 children a month ago, 10 years after landing in Britain and living on a work permit visa.
Hyrbyair, who was at one stage accused of directing the insurgency in restive Balochistan from his London home, decided to apply for asylum after failing to get his passport back from the government despite trying all legal attempts. Hyrbyair and his family’s passports were seized by the anti-terrorism command unit in a dawn raid on the Baloch leader’s home in Ealing on December 4, 2007.
It is believed that Pervez Musharraf, then a key western ally in the ‘war on terror’ had personally asked for the extradition to Pakistan of Hyrbyair Marri, Mehran Baloch, Hyrbyair Marri’s younger brother and Baloch representative in the UN council for human rights, and Faiz Baloch, a 28 years old London based Baloch campaigner and Hyrbyair’s key ally who was arrested and released along with Hyrbyair Marri, in exchange of British Pakistani terror suspect Rashid Rauf, believed to have been killed recently in the tribal areas.
Both Hyrbyair and Faiz, who spent eight months in notorious Belmarsh jail, were acquitted by an ordinary jury due to lack of evidence against them. But despite being acquitted and PPP-led Pakistani government’s assurance to the British government that it was not interested in pursing the charges against Mr. Marri, the British authorities are still hounding him and harassing him in a number of ways. The PPP-led government has recently changed tone. A few weeks ago, Rehman Malik in a speech on the Senate floor specifically singled out Brahamdagh Bugti and Hyrbyair Marri for heading the operations of Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA).
In May this year, a new case 29/2010 was brought against Hyrbyair Marri and his ageing father in Maach Town by the Frontier Constabulary in which both Baloch leaders have been accused of inciting insurgency.
Hyrbyair Marri insists that he has never been involved in armed struggle and would only advocate peaceful means of struggle. They are refusing to return his and his family’s passports and not giving any justification for doing so.
Hyrbyair tells The News that he was so frustrated and humiliated by the attitude of the authorities that he decided to apply for asylum citing fears for his life by the Pakistani security agencies and the killing of his elder brother Balach Marri in a suspected missile attack.
Unlike many other politicians, Hyrbyair has made it a point not to receive the state benefits and has paid for his family’s living costs, education, housing and medical but has never claimed anything in benefits but the Home Office rejection letters has addressed him as an “economic migrant” looking for better opportunities in Britain.
Human rights campaigners believed that Hyrbyair had a good chance of being granted the refugee status straight away as hundreds of Balochs, who have claimed harassment and persecution at the hands of security services have been granted refuge in Britain and many other European countries.
Mir Suleman Dawood, the current Khan of Kalat, in Britain and advocate Kachkol Ali Baloch in Norway were recently granted the refugee status on more or less the same ground of fear of torture by the security forces.
Hyrbyair remains highly critical of the role of Britain and suspects that it’s security services still believe the “wrong information” provided to them by their Pakistani counterparts and continuing to chase him at various levels.
Speaking to The News he said that he would love to spend his life amongst his own people back in Balochiistan but that was made almos impossible by the on-going military operation in Balochistan.
“Our people are being cut down by the security forces like vegetables. My brother Balach was killed by the ISI in a missile attack and we are being hounded even in countries abroad. During an address to a rally of British Pakistanis in Manchester on 9th of September, Pervez Musharraf, without naming Hyrbyair Marri, made a reference to his presence in Britain and called him “anti-Pakistan”.
Musharraf, who is disliked by Balochs for launching military operation in the province for ordering the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti, was talking about “crushing the anti-Pakistan elements” with brutal force, especially the likes of Brahamdagh Bugti and all others who have adopted the path of armed struggle for the acceptance of their demands. The News asked a close Musharraf advisor after Musharraf finished his Manchester speech that who did the former president mean by the “anti-Pakistan” residing in Britain, thee Musharraf loyalist said that the former general meant Hyrbyair Marri.
Renowned human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell in a statement condemned the Home Office for refusing the asylum application of Hyrbyair Marri. “The Home Office is clearly out of touch if it believes that Hyrbyair Marri can live a safe life in Pakistan.”