Pakistan’s Baloch ‘king’ fears for life, seeks British asylum (Lead)

December 3rd, 2008 - 4:26 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Dec 3 (IANS) The head of the erstwhile royal family of Balochistan, a man many Balochis regard as their head of state, has sought political asylum in Britain, saying he feared for his life if forced to return to Pakistan where he is being allegedly persecuted by the military and intelligence services.Suleman Khan Ahmedzai, who is a Baloch independence campaigner, told an asylum court in Newport, Wales, that he fled Balochistan because of persecution in Pakistan.

“If the government wants to get rid of you, it will get rid of you,” said Ahmedzai, who opposes Pakistan’s annexation of Balochistan in 1948.

Ahmedzai, who is called the Khan of Kalat, arrived in Britain in June 2007 after the killing of fellow-Baloch national leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti in a military raid in 2006, and now lives alone in Cardiff.

Ahmedzai told the Nov 28 hearing, which followed Britain’s rejection of his asylum application Oct 2007, that several death threats have been made to him directly and indirectly by telephone since he came to this country.

He claims these calls were made from the Pakistani High Commission in London - a claim that is disputed by British Home Office lawyers. He told reporters outside the court that thousands of people had disappeared in the troubled Pakistani province, adding, “I want to make the international community aware of what is going on over there.”

“There is a carrot and stick approach. I didn’t take the carrot because of my conscience. I was told whatever was taken from my grandfather in 1958, which was millions of acres of land, I could have some back,” he said.

British human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said the British government had come under pressure from Pakistani services to crack down on Baloch dissidents.

“Pakistan’s military and intelligence services have threatened to end all cooperation with the UK unless our government cracks down on Baloch dissidents exiled here,” Tatchell said.

Tatchell said Ahmedzai is seen by many Baloch people as their head of state.

“Suleman Ahmedzai is the direct descendant of the Khan of Kalat… His grandfather was head of state when Balochistan secured its brief period of independence in 1947, before it was invaded and annexed by Pakistan in 1948.”

The fate of Baloch nationalists became linked with the war on terror after the former Pakistani government led by then president Pervez Musharraf last year sought action against a number of Balochis in London in exchange for action against British-born terror suspect Rashid Rauf.

British police arrested two Baloch nationals in London December last year in what was reported at the time to be a prelude to a prisoner-swap - Islamabad would hand over Rauf in exchange for the Balochis.

Rauf, who is alleged to have been involved in a terrorist plot to blow up transatlantic airliners in 2006, was then being held in a Pakistani prison at the time.

He subsequently escaped under suspicious circumstances - his police guards allowed him to pray in a mosque while taking him for a hearing to extradite him to Britain. He was reportedly killed in November this year in an American bombing raid in the North Waziristan area.

The British asylum court’s ruling is expected in the next two to three weeks.

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