The separatist leaders of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), one of the four provinces of Pakistan, are finding it hard to get asylum in India. So far, one or two separatist leaders have managed to travel to India to mobilise the Pakhtoons living here and to seek support from Indians and the Indian government. While overlapping visa laws and unclear asylum rules in India still need streamlining, Pakhtoon separatist leaders have urged the Indian government to listen to the hardship of people in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Umar Daud Khattak, a separatist leader from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, who escaped from the Pakistan army into Afghanistan, is the youngest Pakhtoon separatist leader who has been travelling to India over the past two years.
Speaking about the asylum challenges of a separatist leader, Khattak said, “I have been to India about six times and have applied for visa about four times. The last two times I applied for visa at Shaheer Travels, an Indian government authorised visa application center (VAC) in Kabul, the staff behaved badly. It took me three days more compared to other people whose documents were normally processed. The second issue is that I always ask for a long-term visa, but they only give me a one-month visa. Also, I cannot come back to India before 60 days. Then at FRRO, it takes longer to finish the registration process, but I am not able to produce every document they ask for.”
Separatist leaders from Pakistan’s different districts like KP, Balochistan and Sindh have started running an extra mile to get permission to stay in India for longer durations, largely because of the security threat they face even in the countries of their current temporary asylum. Khattak explained, “I am vulnerable at Kabul because of Pakistani spies and other Islamists. Just before coming to India, I faced an unsuccessful attempt of abduction. For separatist leaders like us, it is of utmost important to stay in continuous contact with the people in the Indian government. That is the only way to convince people of the idea of making an independent ‘Pashtunistan’.”
Separatist leaders explain Pashtunistan as the place where the Pakistan army has brought international terrorist networks like Al-Qaeda, (Osama Bin Laden was also found there). They insist that Pakistan is turning Pashtunistan into a global hub of international terrorism against the will of Pakhtoons.
Khattak said, “I have been asking the Indian government and bearers of major political parties to support the freedom cause of Pashtunistan and they did, in fact, arrange some conferences and meetings for me with top government officials. I am currently on a tourist visa for six months that allows me to enter India multiple times, but I can only stay for less than 30 days and when I go back, I can only come back after 60 days with the same visa. I want to extend this visa for about a year to actively and thoroughly lobby and work for the cause of Pashtunistan. I can access nearly all the embassies in New Delhi, which I cannot access in Kabul.”
Khattak said that he had applied for Indian citizenship as an asylum seeker nearly one-and-a-half year ago, but it has not been addressed. “I would request the government to grant me a five-year-long visa or grant me Indian citizenship. If entertainers from Pakistan can be given citizenship here by the Prime Minister, why not us freedom fighters who are sacrificing our lives for the sake of our people,” urged Khattak.