Aug 03 - 09, 2009

There are many daunting challenges that need to be seriously addressed if Balochistan is to be developed economically and to turn its potential into reality. First is the challenge of meeting security challenge both from internal and external fronts. Internally the province is facing a mild insurgency. It was the failure of the former government on political front that it could not maneuver things politically and ultimately failed to keep Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti isolated from the insurgency camp. The death of Nawab Bugti in a military action in August 2006 further intensified the sense of alienation in the troubled province.

The genesis of Balochistan crisis was political and it was to be solved politically. The army garrisons cannot secure any project, but it is the local stakeholders that can ensure real security for the smooth execution of the mega projects and other development schemes planned for the province. The use of military might has been ineffective in bringing about a political or social change in the province. A stable law and order situation can only sustain the process of economic development in Balochistan.

Balochistan is the country's largest province, with nearly 44% of its surface area and a thinly dispersed population of around 7.5 million. Poverty in the province is a consequence of several factors, including geography and low human capital. Many of these factors increase the cost of providing social services in the province. The development should be in accordance with the local needs and the local people should be made the stake-holders in the development of the province, as they can only guarantee the protection and sustainability of any development strategy devised under the government for the province. Need is to create a sense of ownership among the local people making them directly responsible for the security of vital installations. The ongoing process of economic development, the associated job creation, and the province's rich natural resources have yet to make a meaningful dent in poverty.

Mega projects like Gwadar port would open up the province converting it into a land of opportunities for foreign investors and the global leaders in corporate governance. Officials believes that free zones in Gwadar port city would contribute to the harnessing of the province's potential in natural resources and development of heavy and large-scale industries, petrochemicals and manufacturing. Gwadar port would provide large-scale employment, and value of land would further increase, and there would be other income generating activities for local people.

Though the present government denies any on-going operation in the province, yet Baloch nationalists claim that military operation is still being carried out. Whatever be the claims from different political fence, it is a proven fact that no military solution is viable to Balochistan crisis. If the local people have some reservations about the development process taking place on their soil, then these should be addressed and removed rather ignored or suppressed by force.

Balochistan witnessed the growth of Klashnkove culture and drug trafficking during the Afghan crisis that destroyed peace in the province. The province emerged a frontline province in the US military campaign in Afghanistan after trauma of September 11, 2001. For the first time, it attained the frontline position in 1979 when US backed Afghan Jihad against the defunct Soviet Union forces was underway in Afghanistan. On both the occasions, the province had to have worst repercussions of the war in Afghanistan being on frontline. The fallout effects of Afghan crisis traumatized Balochistan both socially and economically.

Under military government of General Zia-ul-Haq, the Afghan refugees were not confined to the camps but they were allowed free movement and interaction with the people in the society. They got employment and permanently settled in Balochistan. The province was absolutely unable to meet its own requirements from its meager economic resources. With the massive influx of Afghan refugees, the province had to bear extra burden of aliens and it frequently faced resource scarcity to feed, clothe and employ the Afghan DPs. The influx of Afghan refugees as a result of US attack on Afghanistan after 9/11 events overburdened the local economy. During the period of US attack on Taliban in Afghanistan, the terrorists accelerated their activities in order to spread anarchy through creating new monsters of disharmony in Pakistan. The incidents of bomb explosions, Rockets firing and target killings got a boost leaving several people dead and injured in the country. Balochistan was in particular made the target by terrorists as it was on frontline position.

Former government of President Musharraf had launched a military operation in December 2005 to subdue an insurgency-like situation in the province. The veteran Baloch leader, Nawab Akbar Bugti was killed in August 2006 in a military action in Mari tribal area. Strikes, protests and demonstrations crippled the province after the killing of Nawab Bugti.

Worsening law and order situation has raised security concerns among foreign firms working in the province and many Chinese engineers have lost their lives in acts of terrorism during last four years. One should recognize the fact that no economic activity can smoothly take place in a risky environment. While a military solution to the Balochistan crisis is not viable, the political solution is inevitable. Need is to learn from the past experience. The government may invite and consult all the tribal notables of the province to solve the current crisis. The Jirga heads must be encouraged for their peacekeeping tasks. Jirga system however needs to be modified, institutionalized and legalized.

There is dire need for a participatory federation providing constitutional guarantees for social, cultural and economic rights to the people without any discrimination. Balochistan presents a classic case of a small and impoverished province, which has ever remained at the mercy of centre for meeting its financial needs and obligations. NFC Award has been no guarantee for the weak and least developed province. The population should be discarded as sole criterion for appropriation of funds between the federation and the federating units if one wishes to achieve inter provincial harmony in the country.

The real parameters of security vis--vis development process are yet to be defined in our society. In broader perspective, security concept covers all areas- from economic, social, political and cultural to environmental. If all these areas are secure and invulnerable, the development process, which involves changes, certainly brings a positive change not only on ground but also in social attitudes of the people. In a state of real security, one feels economically, socially, politically and culturally secure: security by all aspects.