A heaven on earth

TAHIR KHAN, Rawalpindi
July 09 - 15, 2007

Balochistan, a veritable victim of false promises and discrimination, has always been in the news owing to various reasons. Indubitably, this province has given so much to this country yet remained deprived of even necessities such as education, hospitals, technical and vocational centres, industries, electricity, health care centres and hygiene, water supply, sanitation etc. Generally the chieftains, who for their personal interests have been holding their people incommunicado, are blamed for the said nothingness. Since there is an alarming rich and poor gap, the tribal chiefs while exploiting the situation, have been keeping their people in dark in order to maintain their authority and in many cases have been using them against their rivals and the governments. On the other hand respective governments' remiss ever since Pakistan came into being has been consistently pervading abhorrence amongst the people of Balochistan against the rulers; a situation most suitable for the chieftains to exploit the na´ve people. The representatives of the people of the province have been insisting upon greater provincial autonomy, including recognition of their rights on natural resources and ports. The centre is somehow reluctant on these issues. Second issue which the tribal chiefs preach to their people is that the present mega-projects are aimed to serve people of other provinces and like Sindh, the province will be at the mercy of non-Baloch. They claim that all important jobs will go to non-Balochis. The businessmen from other provinces will benefit the most especially with regards to Gwadar. The Baloch also demand that the provincial autonomy enshrined in the Constitution of 1973 be granted in letter and spirit, more jobs be reserved for locals in the development projects, and the share of Balochistan in the award of National Finance Commission be enhanced. Since Balochistan borders Afghanistan and Iran, undeveloped province is in the interest of some foreign conspirators.

In this kind of uncertainty and deprivation, the government has to be more friendly towards Balochistan. The most conducive situation for development and investment is when there is tranquility in the province and this peace is possible when the government focuses on targets rather then individuals. Why America has failed in Afghanistan and Iraq that is because instead of winning high opinions of the masses, chose to reach the people through warlords or use of force. The problem with the present government is identical, instead of going for political solutions and winning the required support of the masses, it believes more in power shows and operations be it, Balochistan, FATA, or judiciary etc. The government will have to restore the confidence of the people of Balochistan and exercise appropriate measures for the development of the province. Remember Balochistan is a heaven on earth and can prove instrumental in taking the country to economic heights.

Recently the Prime Minister in one of his meetings with the Chief Minister of Balochistan, Jam Mohammad Yousuf said that rapid development of Balochistan, welfare of its people and ensuring peace in the province are the major priorities of the government and economic and political initiatives are being taken in tandem to expedite growth and development in the province. According to the PM, more than Rs160 billion allocated by the Federal Government for development projects in Balochistan reflects government's sincere efforts for the upgradation of the province pairing it with other developed provinces. He said, that the present government is focusing attention both on the mega projects as well as micro development schemes, resulting in creation of jobs, better facilities of life and more prosperity for the people at all levels, he added. He said the job quota for Balochistan has been increased on the basis of the last population census that will increase their representation in various services. Instead of commanding the situation personally, the economist Prime Minister has asked the provincial Chief Minister to step up the efforts. One should not forget that the chief ministers are normally tied up and are under the influence of the tribal chiefs so as to prolong their governance. The way to please these chiefs is to pay absolute heed to their interests, and there interests are, a raw Balochistan.

While inaugurating Makran Coastal Highway in 2004, the President claimed that the Government is spending Rs 20.3 billion for the development of Balochistan under public sector development programme (PSDP) and the completion of mega projects including will contribute vitally to progress of the province and the country. The President said this was the highest allocation for Balochistan ever made by any government. It is in fact 13.7 percent of the total PSDP funds which is higher than Punjab province which has the allocation of 9 percent of the PSDP". He said it was his commitment with the people of Balochistan that he would remove their sense of deprivation. "I took the serious notice of this sense of deprivation and resolved that Balochistan will get more share than its right," he added. He expressed disappointment over the statements of various political leaders of the province who were claiming to be nationalists. They cannot be termed nationalists - as they were not serving the cause of the people, he said. These are opposing the construction of various development projects like Gwadar Port, Makran Coastal Highway, Mirani Dam. He said that flood water was previously being wasted before the construction of Mirani Dam. President said that these projects were for the benefit of the people of Balochistan. These elements do not want to see the progress of people of Balochistan for the sake of their vested politics. But sadly after almost three years, the errant results are enough to contest President's claims.

The PM and the President should pay serious attention to painfully slow pace of utilization of development funds under the public sector development programme (PSDP). Why has the government not been able to formulate a mechanism to fulfill its promises and keep up the implementation momentum. Has the government prepared any road-map for the social development in a region whose social indicators are the most challenging in respects already mentioned? There is no electricity, no roads, no industries, no institutions, no tourism resorts, insecurity etc. and above all government's about-face forced the private investors to back out. People, who wish to see a prosperous Balochistan, are sick and tired of orations and now expect practical and realistic approach. Big promises were made in the past as well especially with regards to Gwadar. Except for one Five Star Pearl Continental Hotel, which is the personal effort of Mr. Sadruddin Hashwani, there has been no worth mentioning breakthroughs. Billions of dollars have been invested in Gwadar, which seem to be in doldrums now. Major problems that has restrained Gwadar from progress are law and order situation, local and political unrest, ineffective policies to urbanize the area, lack of facilities such as electricity, water distribution, lack of facilities along the coastal highway, in attentiveness towards providing economical air and ground travel means between Karachi and Gwadar and Quetta and Gwadar, and non availability of any exclusive development units. Gwadar will not only take the province to the summit will also take the country out of economic crises.