COMMENDABLE EFFORTS TO MEET BALUCHISTAN'S NEEDS

SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI
Apr 13 - 19, 2009

Surely, the performance of President Asif Ali Zardari in promoting harmony and understanding amongst the federating units cannot be underestimated. His relentless efforts to remove the grievance of the most neglected and backward province of Baluchistan are really commendable. He has repeatedly declared his resolve to end Baluchistan's woes and bring it at par with other parts of the country.

During his visit to Quetta last week, apart from many other measures, President Zardari announced Rs46.6billion special development package for Baluchistan and announced that the people and parliament of Pakistan would ensure that the rights of the people of the under-developed province were not denied and it would receive its due share from the revenues for development.

President Zardari announced four water storage reserves at a cost of Rs36billion, a small dam at a cost of Rs2.5billion and a package for Quetta city for Rs3billion and transmission lines at a cost of Rs5billion.

President Asif Ali Zardari started his visit to Quetta on a promising note when he resolved to solve all the 'problems confronting the province of Baluchistan'. He assured that the process of political reconciliation in Baluchistan would be stepped up and the government would take sincere steps for granting rights of the province and there would be no need of resorting to violence for securing rights of the people.

He chaired a series of meetings in Quetta at the start of his two-day visit to Baluchistan and while addressing the participants at the Chief Minister Secretariat he stressed that the pace of reconciliation process should be accelerated.

The meeting that was chaired by the President was attended by all concerned including Governor Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Magsi, Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani, PPP provincial President Senator Hajji Lashkari Raisani, Federal Ministers Manzoor Wattoo, Rehman Malik, Nabeel Gabol, Qamaruz Zaman Kaira, Raja Pervez Ashraf, Humayun Kurd, Federal Secretaries, Chief Secretary of Balochistan Nasir Mehmood Khosa.

The Chief Secretary briefed the President about the overall situation of the province. President Zardari proposed for constituting a parliamentary committee which after due deliberations would prepare recommendations and ensure the implementation of recommendations of the committee so that all tribes of Balochistan could be brought into national mainstream politics and a collective role could be played for the development of the country.

The President said that the government would take all possible steps for the rehabilitation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) of Balochistan who had migrated from their native towns due to military drive besides the government would also ensure their security and respect. "Balochistan is an integral part of Pakistan and the federal government will utilize all available resources for its development," he added and assured that the incumbent government would redress all grievances of Balochistan.

President Zardari assured that implementation of six per cent quota of Balochistan in federal services would be ensured. He said that his government is keen to increase foreign investment in Balochistan so that it could make progress and the government would provide complete security to the companies busy in exploring oil and gas projects.

He also assured provision of special funds for increasing the strength and improvement of law-enforcement agencies. Matters relating to Gwadar Port, improvement of law and order situation, accelerating pace of projects of exploration of oil and gas and security steps for the oil and gas installations also came under discussion. President Zardari directed to constitute three parliamentary committees to address grievances of the people and improve their living standards in Balochistan.

He gave this directive at a briefing on law and order and economic situation in the province. New dams are being built to fulfill water requirements in the province, he said. The provincial government proposed construction of eight new dams keeping in view water requirement which would bring 5,000 acres of barren land under cultivation. It also submitted a proposal to construct 200 small and medium size dams to store rainwater.

The President issued instructions to the Planning Commission that while constructing new dams it should consider adopting latest technology so that water could be utilized in a better way and its wastage could be stopped. Other important matters of the province also came under discussion. The meeting reviewed a proposal to make Gwadar Port operational to its full potential.

The provincial government is expediting exploration of oil and gas in the province. The matter pertaining to enhancing share in the income of gas, oil, and other minerals in the province also came under discussion. President Asif Ali Zardari's visit to Quetta gave impetus to the development activities in Baluchistan and it is hoped that from now onward the problems being faced by the people of the province will be solved on priority basis.

For a change, Baluchistan has been in the news for the right reasons. Instead of acts of sabotage or attacks by insurgents, the emphasis has been on putting Pakistan's least developed province on the path to prosperity. And there is absolutely no reason why Baluchistan cannot thrive given its immense natural wealth. It is endowed with fossil fuels such as oil and gas, and is home to huge reserves of precious metals, among them gold and copper.

The sad truth is that Baluchistan has been neglected by the centre from day one. Its resources have been exploited to fuel engines of growth elsewhere in the country, with little benefit accruing to the people of the province. Only a few tribal Sardars, whose very survival is linked to keeping the masses backward and subjugated, have flourished under the policies adopted so far. Promises of autonomy have been reneged consistently and uprisings rooted in nationalism crushed with brute force. Against this background the latest initiatives taken by the PPP government are really commendable.