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Switzerland abdicating neutrality?

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. Senators greeted these remarks with a loud desk-thumbing. These remarks were prompted by policy statement given on behalf foreign minister about the protest lodged with Switzerland over appearance of several anti-Pakistan posters on a road to the UN offices in Geneva.  The BLA has long been outlawed by Pakistan, the UK and some other countries.

Earlier Switzerland’s Ambassador-designate, Thomas Kolly, was summoned to the 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. The 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 had accosted his Swiss counterpart. Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva wrote to his counterpart, Swiss Permanent Representative Valentin Zellweger, drawing his attention to the ‘Free Balochistan’ posters. Balochistan House”, an affiliate of the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), had sponsored this campaign. Reportedly, India had channeled Rs 7 billion to run this anti-Pakistan campaign in Geneva. In a 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 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.”  “The use of Swiss soil by terrorists and violent secessionists for nefarious designs against Pakistan and its 200 million people is totally unacceptable,” said the ambassador, demanding that “the incident is fully investigated with a view to blocking its recurrence in the future.” The ambassador also expressed hope that the Swiss authorities would, “proceed against the local accomplices of the BLA and deal with those individual/companies […] who wittingly or unwittingly support BLA.” Farrukh Amil also requested the Mission of Switzerland to the UN in Geneva to alert Swiss authorities about presence in Geneva of BLA terrorists or elements linked with such terrorists. The envoy said that the BLA had been using its Geneva hideout, Balochistan House, to attack the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state of Pakistan, despite the fact that attack on the sovereignty of any state is a violation of the UN charter.

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.

Switzerland frequently behaves in a manner as if it has no respect and regard for principles governing inter-state relations and UN Charter. It beams out such signals by allowing its banks to attract ill-gotten money from across the world and now it also hosts and prompts terrorists. Stance taken by the Swiss government in response to Pakistan’s protest is against the basic spirit of neutrality. 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, as of now one wonders whether it is transitioning from a peaceful neutral country to a terror sponsoring state? Hopefully not.

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