Hyrbyair Marri, one of six sons of veteran Baloch leader Nawab Khair Baksh Marri, had applied for political asylum in Britain four months ago. He had entered Britain in 2000 after sneaking out of Pakistan where he was being sought by Pakistani spy agencies on various charges.
Initially Mr Marri’s asylum claim was turned down by the Home Office and stated in the refusal letter that Hyrbyair’s life will be safe in Pakistan as his father still lived in Karachi and didn’t face harassment from the state authorities. Hyrbyair took his case to the asylum and immigration tribunal where his lawyer successfully argued that not only Hyrbyair’s elder brother Balach Marri was assassinated by Pakistani secret services but also Mr Marri himself has not stepped inside Balochistan in 10 years.
The immigration judge was told that from former president Pervez Musharraf to the interior minister Rehman Malik had personally threatened and warned Hyrbyair of the repercussions for his 'what they called' anti-Pakistan activities. The defence argued that the continuing heavy-handed military operation in areas populated by the Bugtis and Marris, coupled with the ever-deteriorating law and situation in the country rendered Hyrbyair at the potential risk and law enforcement agencies could easily take him out.
Sources confirmed that, senior PPP government officials, including the foreign office, contacted the Home Office (in the UK) and assured them that Hyrbyair will be provided safety and security if returned and further assured the former Baluchistan assembly lawmaker-turned-rebel was only exaggerating threat to his life. Hyrbyair’s lawyers were successful in convincing the judge that the current civilian government was not only helpless in matters related to Baluchistan but it was also impotent in security matters concerning rest of the country as its writ was absent in even urban areas. In his evidence before the judge, Hyrbyair also criticised the British government for deliberately creating problems for him and his family on behest of the Pakistani government.
The judge acknowledged that Hyrbyair Marri was a high profile figure who had annoyed the establishment by taking a stance on Baluchistan issue not sanctioned by the security establishment.
Hyrbyair was arrested alongside a young Baluch rights campaigner Faiz Baluch on December, 4, 2007. They were charged on charges of inciting others to commit murder abroad. Mr Marri spent 4 months in jail whereas Faiz Baluch was detained for 8 months. After a lengthy trail of over 40 days the duo were acquitted by an ordinary British Jury of 12 men and women. Faiz Baluch, who applied for political asylum in 2002, his case, is still in a limbo and the young campaigner remains clueless about his fate in Britain.
Speaking to media sources, Hyrbyair referred to his first exoneration on terrorism charges, brought on the special request of Pervez Musharraf, said that being granted asylum was nothing to be celebrated about.
“It pains me more that I am not with my people who are standing steadfast against the state onslaught. I am glad though that I have been exonerated for the second time, not by the British government but by the British courts. The British government knows there are serious problems in Balochistan but doesn’t have the courage to stand up to Pakistan. The neutral immigration court has given its verdict in my favour by acknowledging the fact the meltdown in Baluchistan is for real and that life has been made difficult for those who seek independence. I knew that British justice system will not let me and the people of Baluchistan down. These are independent courts, free of political influence.”
He said that now when he is able to travel, he will meet the Baluch Diaspora across the world and will galvanise and unite them for the Baluch struggle for justice and Independence.
Peter Tatchell has been at the forefront of campaigning for the release of Hyrbyair Marri from the detention in Belmarsh prison. He expressed his joy that Mr Marri was granted asylum in Britain, albeit with a lot of delay.
“This decision to grant Hyrbyair asylum is very significant. It is an acknowledgement by the British government that human rights abuses in Baluchistan are so widespread and grave that Mr Marri cannot return their safely. This ruling is a damning indictment of the severe political repression that exists in Pakistan.
The human rights advocate added: “It is further evidence that Baluch people who want the right of self determination are at risk of imprisonment torture and assassination by the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies.