Balochistan became a province of Pakistan on July 1, 1970. The condition of Balochistan when established a province of Pakistan was relatively underdeveloped. It had a low population density, a low literacy rate, a poor health system, a traditional tribal system and a harsh climate. The province was also relatively isolated from the rest of Pakistan. The province started with limited infrastructure and human capital, and the historical lack of attention and investment has created a significant developmental gap. That’s why the province has lagged behind in terms of infrastructure, education, health, and economic development.
Balochistan’s first elected government was formed in 1972, after the province’s first general elections. The National Awami Party (NAP) won the elections, and its leader, Ataullah Mengal, became Balochistan’s first Chief Minister. The appointment of Balochistan’s first elective government was a momentous event since it was the first time the province’s people had the power to elect their own leaders. However, Balochistan’s first elected government was dismissed in a short period of time. This resulted in a period of instability and violence in Balochistan that lasted for many years. Balochistan has had a number of elected governments since then. However, the province has faced a number of issues, including security, governance, and development.
Since 1972, the Balochistan Assembly has passed several annual budgets. The total development budget of Balochistan from 1972 to 2023 is estimated to be around Rs. 1.5 trillion. This is based on the data available from the Balochistan Finance Department. The province also receives an annual budget allocation from the federal government. However, it is important to note that the actual development spending in Balochistan has often been lower than the allocated budget. This is due to a number of factors, including security challenges, social and cultural factors, governance issues, and a lack of capacity. Despite the challenges, the development budget of Balochistan has increased steadily over the years. The budget is meant to fund various development projects, infrastructure improvements, public services, and other initiatives aimed at promoting economic growth and overall development in the province.
It is important to note that in the annual budget, special funds are allocated to Members of Provincial Assembly (MPAs) in Balochistan for development. The concept of MPAs Development Funds (MDFs) was first introduced in Balochistan in 1991-92. The initial allocation for MDFs was PKR 5 million per MPA. Over the years, the allocation for MDFs has increased significantly. In the 2022-23 provincial budget, the allocation for MDFs was PKR 250 million per MPA. MDFs are allocated to each MPA based on the population of their constituency. MPAs are responsible for identifying and selecting development projects in their constituencies. The purpose of these funds is to allow elected representatives to address the needs and concerns of their constituents.
MPAs funds can only be effective if they are used wisely, timely and efficiently. There have been concerns about the transparency and accountability of MDF spending in the past. In particular, there have been allegations of corruption and mismanagement. For example, in 2018, a report by the Transparency International Pakistan found that there were widespread irregularities in the spending of MDFs in Balochistan. The report found that many MDF-funded projects were either incomplete or abandoned, and that there was a lack of transparency and accountability in the procurement process.
There have been allegations of MPs using MDFs to favor certain constituents or communities based on political considerations rather than distributing funds equitably and based on need. In some cases, there have been allegations of MDF funds being misused for personal gain or for purposes unrelated to constituency development. This can involve corruption, embezzlement, or funds being diverted to private projects.
It is also being noted that MPAs favor their own supporters or family members when appointing people to government positions or when awarding contracts. One of the most significant negative impacts is the misallocation and misuse of MPA funds. Funds are diverted to projects that do not align with genuine development needs but are chosen for political or personal gain.
The allegation against MPA funds in Balochistan is that they have been used to fund projects that have benefited a small number of people at the expense of the majority of the population. For example, a 2019 report by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute found that MPA funds were being used to fund projects that were located in the constituencies of powerful politicians, while the constituencies of poor and marginalized politicians were neglected.
Another point is that the projects funded by MPA funds do not always undergo proper planning, feasibility studies, or cost-benefit analyses. This lack of due diligence led to the misallocation of resources and the ineffective use of funds.
It is also observed that MPAs focus on short-term projects that provide immediate political benefits, even if these projects do not contribute to long-term sustainable development in Balochistan.
Since 1988, politics has been a clear and obvious business in which you invest millions and earn billions after being elected as MNA or MPA. The distributing of MPA funds for development in province is the biggest business in Balochistan politics.
Actually, a MPA’s primary responsibility is to represent and advocate for his or her constituency. Secondly, pass appropriate laws and monitor the development work. Unfortunately, the public elects them to the assembly to work for them, but they become contractors and build roads, sewerage lines, and so on, with no concern for the people’s well-being. As a result, the people of Balochistan have been deprived of all of their fundamental needs, and they believe we are being intentionally deprived.
This MPA’s funding approach to development has failed to solve Balochistan’s issues. This development approach in Balochistan should be completely stopped, and the federal and provincial governments should introduce new approaches to development. First, the whole development paradigm should be revisited with alternative approaches. The existing system is challenging, inefficient, and riddled with unneeded barriers.
Second, all development projects must go through proper planning, feasibility studies, and cost-benefit analyses before they get approved. This will help to ensure that resources are allocated wisely, that funds are used effectively, and that projects are of high quality. The feasibility study should assess the need for the project, its potential impact, and its technical and financial feasibility. The cost-benefit analysis should assess the costs and benefits of the project and compare them to the costs and benefits of alternative projects.
Third, the interference of MPAs should be completely stopped in the Public Sector Development Program (PSDP). A team of experts should be constituted to propose need-based development programs in the province. The MPAs may be allowed to provide input into policy formation but may have the right to interfere with project development. This is a fairly basic method that can be quickly used.
Fourth, Balochistan needs a long-term development plan instead of a short-term one. A short-term development project may give some immediate benefits, but it does not address the major problems in Balochistan. Long-term development can be a strong foundation for the socio-economic well-being of the province. It takes a longer time, but its impact brings very positive results to the lives of people in Balochistan. Therefore, the government should plan for long-term projects.
Balochistan cannot develop until the existing system is changed. It can only change if the provincial government, in general, and the provincial political leadership in particular, change their attitudes regarding expenditures on development in the province. There is a need for a checks and balances system to effectively monitor if the funding is spent appropriately. A success policy is one that brings changes to people’s lives.