DEVELOPMENT OF BALOCHISTAN NEEDS DEVOTION
An interview with Imran Baksh Baloch, SEVP, NBP
SADAF AURANGZAIB, Senior Correspondent
July 09 - 15, 2007
NBP is the 'Nation's Bank' with an international recognition and acclaim in which both the state and nation can invest their trust and pride. NBP is the largest bank of Pakistan with the customer base of over 10 million account holders. NBP branches are operational in many parts of our different provinces, and they have their branches in Balochistan as well. We met Mr. Imam Baksh Baloch, the SEVP of NBP Bank who told us a little about his life.
PAGE: Please tell us a little about yourself and about your early life and education in Balochistan?
IBB: I was born in the Tasp village of Panjgor district. My education was not the same as others, when I started my education, we didn't have a proper school. We used to study under a tree and we completed our primary education that way. Later we were shifted to a mud house sort of building where we took our middle class studies. Only one teacher used to teach all the subjects to us. Later I went to the high school which was 13-15 km away from my home ground. Up to two years I used to walk there in order to get my higher education. After completing my higher education, I went to Khuzdar to find a job but there my maternal uncle asked me to continue with my education. I then did my graduation from Khuzdar college.
Later I looked for the opportunities and I appeared for the UBL test in Karachi and passed it. It was in April 20, 1974 when I joined the United Bank. There I was getting three hundred and fifty rupees a month as I joined there as a grade-3 officer. Subsequently, I joined the National Bank (they were also opening their branch in Panjgur district) in Oct, 1974 where they posted me to my hometown, Panjgur. I served there for about three years. From there, I went to the Turbat branch which was the area headquarter branch which proved to be the turning point of my life. I became the area manager for the whole Makran. Panjgur was under me as well as the other six. While working in Turbat, I was interviewed for a foreign posting and later I was posted to New York. I went to USA in 1982 and served there for another ten years, worked in both the branches of NBP which were located at Wall Street and at United Nations plaza.
In 1992 I came back to Pakistan and was posted as Zonal Chief to Quetta, later was promoted as the regional chief in 1999, and served there till Aug 2002. In 2002, I was transferred back to Karachi, at that time they were re organizing the bank, previously we had nine regions, and then we reorganized it to the 29 regions. Balochistan was separated into two regions, Gwadar and Quetta.
PAGE: How much has life and education changed there over the last 40 years?
IBB: Balochistan lacks a lot in the education sector. I still remember my teachers who were there from Dera Gazi Khan, that in order to continue teaching, they did not go for their summer vacations, rather they taught us tuitions without any money and they even shared their meal with us. If that practice would have continued the education quality in Balochistan would be much better. People have realized over the years that how much good education is needed and now they are trying to have a better education but comparatively we are far behind.
PAGE: What should the government be doing to promote better social, educational and economic progress in Balochistan?
IBB: One thing that I was shocked to see was that the local teachers are not taking much interest as they are busy in their work and family life and there are no such monetary benefits in teaching available so they can't concentrate solely to teaching. A revolutionary step has to be taken seriously at the education side. If the education is made compulsory for boys and girls from the age of five years and a quality education is given to them then this will bring a huge change in Balochistan.
We should also have more inter provincial interaction in order to bring in more awareness so that the province will not live in oblivion and in utter isolation.
For the socio economic progress, development of roads are a must, still inter- connecting roads to the cities, to the districts, to the tehsils are lacking there.
PAGE: Why haven't past governments taken much interest in developing Balochistan?
IBB: It needs devotion. Even locally people are not devoted and sincere. Also the fund allocation for the province is not sufficient to develop such a huge area. With an area that is already backward and also without a sufficient budget, development will be difficult. By Allah's Grace, Balochistan is rich in resources; we have natural gas, coal mines, minerals, fruits, vegetables etc. The need is to develop the infrastructure in order to make use of those resources. The treasure is buried but we need to explore it first. The first priority in Balochistan should be education, then the road connection, exploration of resources and health facilities. Health is also not available. You can see many buildings as BHU's (Basic Health Unit) etc but there aren't any facilities available there. Government should concentrate on one hospital at the district level with all the facilities made available. In that way healthcare can improve.
PAGE: You have been remarkably successful. Do you feel that Balochis face discrimination in the corporate sector/ladder?
IBB: People do think that Balochis do not know anything but I can tell you that people from Balochistan are very sincere to their jobs; they do it with the honesty and devotion. I feel if you give them respect and recognition to their services, then they will devote themselves more heartedly.
PAGE: Have the roles of the Balochi tribes changed over the last few decades?
IBB: I think tribal changes can only be brought about through education proliferation. The area from where I originated has the same rulers, sardars, nawabs, but it's not the same as it was before and it changes because of education. Our people have access to Karachi so all the people from coastal belt, Panjgur, Makran used to visit Karachi and get their education. In those areas this tribal system is not that forceful.
Only education can change the mindset of those tribal chieftains. If you give respect to the Balochi people, they can even forgive you the biggest sin but if you force then to do certain things, they will retaliate. Respect can only win their hearts.
PAGE: How do you see the development of Gwadar port changing the development of Balochistan ?
IBB: I don't see anything in the near future, but definitely there is a future for Gwadar. As the requirements of the world is growing and much is needed to reach Central Asia. Gwadar has possibilities but they there is a need to develop the whole infrastructure. Rail, roads, etc are a must needed things to make things happen in Gwadar. One thing that I would like to mention is that the government should take the confidence of the local people in this project and make them aware them of the possibilities this project will bring to them. Everyone wants development and a good life so do us and the development will definitely trail its effects to the people of that area.
PAGE: What is NBP's role / position to business in Balochistan? Has it been expanding its operations there?
IBB: We are expanding. National Bank has a different role compare to other banks. We have to look after the business of the government. There is one branch which is Nokundi branch which needs to be developed as water is not available there. In the past, they used to get water once a week through a railway track. In Taftan we have one branch but you can't live with your family there because of a lack of water. However on the same side we are sharing Taftan as a border with Iran. Iran has developed that area manifold, unfortunately at our end it is just a deserted place.
PAGE: The title of this week's issue is: Balochistan : Massive Untapped Wealth. What would you like to tell our readers about the potential of Balochistan.
IBB: The potential is much bigger but we need to exploit the resources. A law and order problem exists but that can only be resolved through negotiations and not through crack downs. Deal with those people; convince them that the development plans are for their benefits instead of crushing them. In that way you can make any developments there. Government needs to bring the violence down through negotiations and discussion. On the other side, a massive development is required and people need jobs there. If the government gives them the opportunities, those people will never use violence. Keeping them busy is the only way to bring them to the rational path.
EPIDEMICS: THREATENING COASTAL AREAS OF SINDH & BALOCHISTAN: PMS
KANWAL SALEEM, Lahore
Cholera, typhoid, water-borne diseases and other epidemics are spreading in the coastal areas of Sindh and Balochistan owing to the heavy rains and two powerful cyclones.
This was revealed by Pakistan Medical Society (PMS) Chairman Dr Masood Akhtar Sheikh while talking to PAGE.
Dr Masood maintained the salty seawater; coming out because of the cyclones has mixed with the underground clean water in the affected areas, rendering it unsuitable for drinking. Resultantly, there has occurred an acute shortage of clean drinking water in the affected areas and the situation has further aggravated by the mixing of sewerage water with drinking water, he claimed. This state of affairs has enhanced the hazards of gastro-enteritis (generally called gastro) while the remnants of dead animals are also further intensifying the situation, he added.
He further claimed that there is likelihood of dengue fever in the affected areas as the after-effects of the heavy rains. We can avoid most of the diseases by providing clean drinking water to the affected people, he opined.
Dr Masood warned that if the "International Treaty for Environmental Pollution" inked in Kyoto (Japan) was not enforced in letter and spirit and emission of greenhouse gasses was not controlled, the global warming and the rise in the sea water level would result in even more powerful cyclones in future. Sri Lanka and Indonesia have realised that cutting of the dense coastal forests "mangrove" was one of the reasons for the massive destruction by tsunami, the PMS chairman pointed out. He observed that re-plantation of "mangrove" along the coastal borders of Pakistan can avert recurrence of such a massive destruction.
Dr Masood Akhtar Sheikh said PMS, SHADE and PML-Q Youth Wing would soon send a doctors' team along with relief goods to the cyclone-hit areas for the rehabilitation of helpless people.