Balochistan is the largest province in the federation of Pakistan, covering 44% of the country’s area, but is home to only 5% of the country’s population. Its strengths lie in its wealth of natural resources, the vast rangeland, the coastal belt with 750 km , rich mineral and hydrocarbon deposits, deep seaport at Gawader, gateway to Central Asia and high way for future pipelines IPI and TAPI, energy rich wind corridors, thin population, host of CPEC.
The ground realities speak otherwise. Despite geo-strategic and geo-economic importance, the province is unfortunately on the receiving end since beginning. Enormous resource potential remains untapped, may be by default or design. A long history of socio-economic and political factors are behind its deprivation, sense of alienation, insurgencies poverty and illiteracy. Consequently Balochistan lags behind all human development Indicators (HDIs) then other provinces in the country.
The socio-economic and security indicators in Balochistan are alarming. In a province that suffers from an acute water shortage, 70 percent of the people live in abject poverty coupled with illiteracy. Abound 1.8 million children are out of school. Massive corruption, nepotism, mismanagement of resources, bed governance and unprecedented unemployment continue to perpetuate structural fault-lines in the province.
A social and political order dominated by rigid feudal, religious and tribal hierarchies, duly supported, used and abused by the establishment since long has consigned the people of the province to lives of virtual serfdom, orthodox social norms and values, with majority of people wholly dependent on the patronage of a feudal lords, and artificial political leadership.
Against the backdrop of a history of neglect and underdevelopment, resource-rich Balochistan struggles with a failing health and education system, drought, and lack of basic infrastructure.“The historical lack of investment in basic economic and social infrastructure in the province – except for extraction of natural gas for use in other provinces – non existence of industrial base in the interior of the province, has resulted in a low level of economic activity, implying a narrow tax base and limited fiscal resources to invest in development
The province is in its sixth insurgency, the longest and bloodiest in history at present, According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP),database, out of 4,642 civilian fatalities recorded in Balochistan since March 6, 2000 (data till December 31, 2021). Baloch separatist formations, Islamist and sectarian extremist formations – Islamic State, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Ahrar-ul-Hind (Liberators of India) – have their presence and are active since long.
In such a bleak past and grime present, as a way forward, the province in immediate future, deserves a multi-faceted approach to overcome inherent chronic political social and economic challenges. By employing political tools coupled with blanket of development and good governance through true representation is prerequisite for peaceful Balochistan. This will help in uplifting the people from the abyss of poverty illiteracy, deprivation and sense of alienation. Balochistan is the theatre of CPEC, and it is high time the fruits of both geo-strategic and geo-economics are shared with the people of the province.
Pakistan’s political and military leadership have to understand that there is no military solution to the Current turmoil in the province. Military responses have been previously tried many times like in 1948, 1958, one in 1973, and yet another one in 2006 which is still continuing.
These military operations only slow down the insurgency in short term but can’t assure that it won’t resurface with more intensity. Balochistan requires resilience, a political solution that has a multidimensional approach.
There is an immediate need to establish confidence and mutual trust among the people of the province, in order to resolve the issues of insecurity, antagonism, and anger among them.
I would like to highlight some of the issues persisting in the province since beginning. Some of the major issues persisting and facing to the province since beginning are as follows.
1) poor and ineffective governance, including a deteriorated economic structure coupled with uneven and unnecessary development.
2) flawed political and economic development policies and strategies.
3) Defective and unproductive political engineering
4) outdated governance, management and development model,
5) Confused, inexperience, political leaders with little knowledge and confidence.
6) intense multi-dimensional poverty, frightening unemployment,
7) vanishing livestock and a deteriorating agriculture sector
8) nonexistence of industrialisation
9). declining education and health indicators
10) alarming infant mortality, maternal mortality, rates
11) rapid depletion of under ground water and lack of potable water, electricity, safe housing conditions, and sanitation facilities and sheer negligence on the part of government.
12) overall institutional issues, flawed PSDP process, outdated Planning and Dev:
13) lacking the very basics of growth and pro-poor development principles.
14) incapable professional expertise for designing, drafting, developing and implementing pro-people and economic growth development strategies.
15) last but not least, the alarming education crisis.
Immediate response with sincerity, continuity, full commitment and support both at federal and provincial governments level is needed to address those chronic issues. The dream of peaceful, prosperous and durable integrated province in the federation of Pakistan can be achieved, provided following steps are taken With out further loss of time.
1) first and the foremost, Balochistan deserves area size attention rather than population-based focus. implementation of 18th amendment in its true sprite and providing uninterrupted financial resources according to 7th NFC award.
2) long-term development and investment strategy result-oriented implementation plan,
3) upgraded planning, development, management, administrative system coupled with modern technology.
4) stable political system along with a carefully planned development budget with justified allocation of resources in PSDP.
5) highly visible wealth sharing mechanisms – such as universal primary education, land reform, and free basic healthcare. establishments of quality education institutions and restructuring of existing institutions and imposition of education emergency for at least five years.
6) long-term investments in education, health, mines minerals, fisheries etc and upgraded institutions with technology and management.
7) pro-poor growth strategies, balance between pro-growth and pro poor policies.
8) reforms to restructuring , capacity enhancement of the governance structure particularly P&D department and result-based long-term PSDP and development budget. Need based development rather than constituency development
9) structural reforms in criminal Justic system ,merit based rather than quotas system induction in all government institutions particularly higher and lower judiciary.
10) A powerful parliamentary committee led by a credible, indigenous parliamentarian of Balochistan should be constituted to ensure the effective implementation of Articles 172(3) and 158 of the Constitution.
11) Balochistan must be given its due share in the ownership, management, and revenues of federally owned oil and gas companies.
12) The province’s concerns with regard to pricing, taxation and distribution of its natural gas must be addressed.
13) Ownership of the Saindak , copper-gold projects may be transferred to the Balochistan government as committed under the Aghaz-i-Haqooq-i-Balochistan package.
14) The Reko Diq agreement should be made public. It’s headquarter may be established in provincial capital. The establishment of a refinery in the province should be ensured.
15) A Chagai foundation with a corporate management and board must be established. At its disposal must be CSR funds, two per cent of the company’s profits, 2pc of federal profits and half of the royalty payments to ensure the socioeconomic uplift of the local community.
16) With regard to CPEC, federal government shall address the reservation of Balochistan and shift to a more inclusive development approach by ensuring due share in the development projects out of the CPEC portfolio.
17) Balochistan should be given a due share in revenues from the Gwadar port for inclusive development in the province.
18) immediate measures by both federal and provincial governments are needed to alleviate poverty and mitigate the adverse impact of fencing the border on livelihoods of border areas.
19) A formal border trade gateway with all allied facilities and necessary trade logistics is necessary in each district along Balochistan’s borders with Iran and Afghanistan
20)taking immediate measures for Confidence building measures to address trust deficit between the public and security forces. Private leshkers and display of arms must be banned forthwith. Training should be imparted to LEAs with special reference to public sensitivities, cultural and social backgrounds.
*Sher Khan Bazai, Former Secretary Education, Balochistan, Pakistan. The writer can be reached at [email protected]