Aug 03 - 09, 2009

It is not merely the geo-strategic location of Balochistan that can attract the foreign investors and multinationals for making investments in the province, but a stable security environment is also vitally linked to attracting foreign investment. It is in the supreme national interest that security environment in the province would be ideal for bringing foreign investment in the country. It is undeniable fact that security and economy are interlinked. The prevailing security environment cannot attract foreign investment in Gwadar port city and other sectors of provincial economy including the oil and gas exploration.

Tremendous gas potential of Balochistan may be tapped by granting maximum exploration licenses to foreign oil and gas exploration companies. The E&P projects will open up the land of Balochistan converting it into a land of opportunities for foreign investors. Geographically, it is the same province from where the greater part of the proposed multibillion gas pipelines would have to traverse-either from Iran, Qatar or Turkmenistan. Uch Power Plant in the province was repeatedly attacked with rockets in recent years. It was finally closed down due to law and order problem under previous regime. In January 2005, the law and order problem at Sui in Dera Bugti district had led to the countrywide gas load shedding for many days, as the damaged gas plants at Sui were to be repaired.

The proposed $6 billion National Trade Corridor (NTC) project envisages improving all sectors of communications, including ports, shipping, aviation. The Asian Development Bank has agreed to provide $1 billion for NTC project that would link Karachi to Gwadar and Khunjrab in Northern Areas. It is worth mentioning that the World Bank and other lenders have already agreed to provide $1.8 billion for the Karachi-Gwadar-Khunjrab section, which is estimated to cost $2.8 billion. The World Bank will provide $300 million a year. What is the most discouraging factor from investment point of view is the prevailing security problem in Balochistan.

The completion of phase-II of Gwadar port project will help meet strategic needs and standby facility to the Port Qasim and the Karachi Port in case of emergencies arising out of any mishaps. Gwadar would emerge as a transit port with Afghanistan letting big ships off load or take on cargoes for and from other ports servicing nearby regions. The port complex will provide facilities of warehousing, trans-shipment, transit and coastal trade and the commercial and industrial openings for international export-import trade.

Pakistan and China plan to develop Gwadar port as a landing point for international†cargo heading to western China. It is expected that the port would cut down the sea journey time for imports to China and save the country's millions of dollars. It can also give China access to the ports in the Gulf region. The two countries plan to make Gwadar a gateway port for Central Asia and Xinjiang. Under a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by the two countries, China will build a 90-kilometre highway-link connecting the Chinese side of the Karakoram Highway to the Russian-built highway network that already connects all the five Central Asian Republics (CARs). This regional highway network will directly be linking Gwadar to Xinjiang and the landlocked CARs. Since outflow of goods from western China and Central Asia reaching Gwadar will pass through this overland trade route, Pakistan could earn millions of dollars a year in terms of port and cargo-handling charges and as freight charges for import cargoes and export goods of the CARs and western China to/from Gwadar for shipment to world markets.

While there is a suggestion in Pakistan that Gwadar should be declared as a free oil port, the Beijing is reportedly negotiating with Islamabad on around five oil and gas pipelines with CARs. Gwadar port has become the China's most favorable choice for oil trade, as the present choke point of oil trade at Hormuz is becoming congested and it could affect global energy security as well as regional peace. In view of the growing importance of Gwadar as a modern investment center, there is a high need to make security of the area foolproof to create an investment climate. Gwadar must be a secure place where the people could do business and the investors could come up with their investments.

Politically stable, socially progressive and economically developed Balochistan provides the investors and businessmen an ideal environment for doing and growing their business. Unfortunately, it is still a dream to come true as the restive province cannot attract the investors besides its geo strategic location and enormous natural resources.

The political unrest is a major hurdle for creating investor-friendly environment in Balochistan. For the government, developing political reconciliation among different political parties and bringing nationalists into mainstream politics is the biggest challenge. The perception of a rapid economic progress poses a threat to centuries-old feudal status of tribal chiefs under which they have been enjoying power and exploiting the people. The only way out from the current Balochistan crisis is developing the province economically.

Security environment is also marred by the prevailing sense of deprivation, alienation and frustration among the masses of the area under process of economic development. Political unrest in different areas of Balochistan indicates a volatile political situation in the province. The only way out from the current crisis is political reconciliation and developing the province economically. Process of economic development involves economic growth and structural changes in the economy of a country. The national income and Human Development Index (HDI) are the important indicators to assess the level of development of a country. It is a fact that whether measured in terms of provincial income or HDI, Balochistan is the least developed province of the country. An economic operation for development of human resources should be launched in the province on war footings. The policy of appeasement toward Balochistan should be followed. The province should be given adequate royalty for fisheries, gas and other minerals.

Law and order situation is becoming worse in Balochistan. Target killings of innocent citizens and the attacks on the personnel of law enforcement agencies have become a routine feature in Quetta. The provincial government has so far failed to protect the lives of civilians, as perpetrators of crimes against humanity are successful to continue their killing spree. It is the foremost duty of the government to protect the lives and properties of the citizens. Such incidents of daylight killings spread terror and intensify the sense of insecurity and vulnerability among the civilians.