Switzerland abdicating neutrality?


By Iqbal Khan

Birth place of Red Cross, the League of Nations, home to the United Nations and instrumental in conclusion of numerous anti-war laws, accords, treaties etc.,   Switzerland is a neutral country, its neutrality was established under Treaty of Paris in 1815. It is the oldest neutral country in the world, and it has not fought a foreign war since its neutrality was established. Of late, the government of Switzerland has been providing logistical support to Baloch dissent leader Brahamdagh Khan Bugti who is now leading separatist activities from his Geneva base. Earlier Bugti was expelled from Afghanistan because he was conducting terrorist activities from Kabul. Stance taken by the Swiss government in response to Pakistan’s protest is against the basic spirit of neutrality. One wonders why the Swiss government is following a trajectory tangential to the very spirit of neutrality?

In a rare spate of arrogance, probably taking a page from Donald Trump’s rash diplomacy, Swiss authorities have informed the Pakistan government that display of anti-Pakistan posters in Geneva by Balochistan House, an entity linked with banned outfit, the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), is not a violation of their domestic laws. Hence they will not take any action against those who displayed such posters or paraded a coach on the commencement of United Nations Human Rights Council’s annual session. Earlier also Pakistan had received similar response from the Swiss government when some other organization, with the name of Christian associations, were doing anti-Pakistan propaganda in Geneva.

Western countries have been in the forefront of efforts to safeguard and promote human rights throughout the globe and are also campaigning against terrorism but, in practice, they are only concerned when it comes to human rights of their own people and terrorism is committed against their societies. If it was not so, there is no justification, to host a terrorist outfit on Swiss soil and then facilitate it in launching an anti-Pakistan separatist campaign with the connivance of Swiss authorities, at least at municipality level.

Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani censured the Foreign Office, and recommended for expulsion of the Swiss ambassador to Islamabad, after Swiss authorities refused to take action over anti-Pakistan activities by an outlawed terrorist group—Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA). Chairman said: “So they are doing nothing. It is a violation of international law. Swiss soil is being used against Pakistan…If the Swiss government is exporting terrorism in Pakistan what our government is doing?”. “The Foreign Office should ask the Swiss ambassador to leave the country.” Chairman’s remarks were reflective of national sentiment on the issue. He also suspended Pak-Swiss Friendship Group” a Senate level entity mandated with managing parliament level cooperation with Switzerland. The BLA has long been outlawed by Pakistan, the UK and some other countries.

Switzerland’s Ambassador-designate, Thomas Kolly, was summoned to Pakistan’s foreign office on September 18 with regard to display of anti-Pakistan posters and an insidious paid campaign against Pakistan. A strong protest was lodged with the ambassador on allowing the use of Swiss territory by elements linked with a terrorist organisation perpetrating terrorism and violence in Pakistan. It was underlined that these posters had been sponsored by a terrorist organisation proscribed by Pakistan as well as some other countries. Ambassador was asked to convey to his government Pakistan’s strong protest on allowing its space to a terrorist organization to carry out activities against Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, in contravention of the UN Charter and international law. The Swiss Government was urged that as host country and a close partner, action should be taken against the perpetrators of such a malicious campaign.

Pakistani diplomats in Geneva had identified several “Free Balochistan” posters displayed along Rue de Ferney in the Grand Sacconex municipality, the road leading to UN office. Pakistan’s permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Farrukh Amil had approached his Swiss counterpart, Valentin Zellweger, drawing his attention to the ‘Free Balochistan’ posters. Reportedly, India had channelled Rs 7 billion to run this anti-Pakistan campaign in Geneva.

In his letter, written on September 6, Amil had reported that these posters “mentioned the name of Balochistan House as a sponsor.” “Pakistan’s Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva has counted eight posters and one digital poster on display since this Monday [September 3],” the letter reads. According to the ambassador, a car “remained parked near [the digital poster] and seemed to be guarding [it].” “It is quite conceivable that local city authorities received certain revenue fee for display of these posters”. Amil further stated in his letter: “any notion of ‘Free Baluchistan’ is a flagrant attack on [the] sovereignty and territorial integrity of Pakistan…The fact that terrorists or elements linked with terrorists operate openly for their propaganda campaigns in the peaceful and serene city of Geneva, is a matter of grave concern.”  He demanded that “the incident is fully investigated with a view to blocking its recurrence in the future.” The hoped that the Swiss authorities would, “proceed against the local accomplices of the BLA”

Regrettably, Switzerland frequently behaves in a manner as if it has no respect and regard for principles governing inter-state relations and UN Charter. It radiates such signals by allowing its banks to attract ill-gotten money from across the world and now it also hosts and prompts terrorists. Committing hostile acts against a sovereign member state of the UN by sponsoring and facilitating separatist elements that encourages them to commit subversion and claiming neutrality can’t go together. Switzerland must chose its options carefully.

Pakistan is a democratic society, where rights of minorities and every segment of society are guaranteed by the constitution. It has independent judiciary, vibrant civil society and free media. And Pakistan continues to enhance these independent protections through legislative and administrative measures.

Pakistan is aware of the malicious campaign against it for some years now. The focus of campaign has been various aspects of human rights in Pakistan, with a twist to link it with territorial integrity of Pakistan. This campaign has become more vicious since Indian Prime Minister Modi publically acknowledged India’s role in separatist and terrorist activities in Pakistan during his 2016 Independence Day Speech. India has been hosting the anti-Pakistan elements in and outside India and is involved in perpetrating and financing terrorism in Pakistan and funding anti-Pakistan activities in other countries as well.  There are indeed other sources also that provide enabling environment to such entities to undermine Pakistan’s image and interests. Pakistan needs to campaign with the UN and its member states to ensure that individuals and organizations involved in such campaigns are not provided space on their territory.

Indian state involvement in perpetrating terrorism and terror financing within India, in Pakistan, in neighbouring states, in Indian occupied J&K, and use of Afghan soil for the same purpose is based on irrefutable evidences, confessions and statements of Indian leaders and officials. India tries to convince the world through propaganda and false information that she is a victim of terrorism. India hides behind excuses and misleads the international community to avoid resolving issues through peaceful means. Different quarters and centres of the world are being used against Pakistan, with some very serious allegations leveled against Pakistani government and its armed forces. There are anti-Pakistan elements like Husain Haqqani, Brahumdagh Bugti, Altaf Hussain, Mir Suleman Dawood Jan, etc. who are based mostly in Western capitals and using their soil against Pakistan. They need to be arrested, brought back and tried.

Switzerland need to understand that it is a gross violation of international law and norms, and each county is obliged to bring its domestic laws in line with its international obligations. Especially when it claims neutrality—as Switzerland does.

*The writer is a freelance columnist and can be reached at Iqbal.khan9999@yahoo.com



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