Let’s do justice to a deprived Balochistan
December 16, 2011
Balochistan is situated in the southwest of Pakistan covering an area of 347,190 km2. It constitutes 44% of Pakistan's total land mass and is the largest province by area. It is bordered by Iran to the south-west; Afghanistan to the west, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province to the north and Punjab and Sindh provinces to the east. To the south lies the sea. The provincial capital is Quetta and Gwadar is the major port. Balochistan is rich in exhaustible and renewable resources; it is the second major supplier of natural gas in Pakistan. However, its renewable and human resource potential has not been systematically measured. Balochistan is located in the south-eastern part of the Iranian plateau. It borders the geopolitical regions of the Middle East and Southwest Asia, Central Asia and South Asia. It is the nearest coastline to Central Asia.
Balochistan is rich in mineral wealth, but remains poor because of the federal government and local sardars’ relentless exploitation, neglect and excesses. The problems of Baloch people are certainly not going to end with the policy that the governments here have been adopting since 1947. The sense of alienation keeps on increasing and the youth keep joining the ranks of dissidents. The nemesis of the issue lies in the iron-clad rule of hierarchical tribal elders or sardars abetted by an equally callous, indifferent and heartless approach of the federal government. Continued atrocities by the law enforcement agencies are adding up to this long list of excesses which will be the straw on the camel's back.
Sui gas was discovered in 1951 and within few years almost the entire Pakistan benefited from it, but it was introduced in its origins (Quetta chapter) after 23 years. Many other cities of the province still lack this facility. Even many localities of the very epicenter of the gas reserves, Sui, still lack this facility. The gas tariff of per cubic feet is lower compared to that of gas reserves of other provinces.
The quota of the province in the federal slots has been recently upgraded from 3 percent to 5 per cent and even that is occasionally filled with people from other provinces. Lack of primary schools in many areas means less than 50% children ever have access to primary education. This means the literacy rate of the province is less compared to other provinces. It is far lesser than the officially touted 46%, while any form of higher education is only possible in Quetta.
Access to potable water is also available to only 32% inhabitants compared to 55% in the other provinces. There are countless regions in province where both human and animals utilize dirt ponds, which is also the reason for prevalence of black jaundice in the province. Sanitation facilities are also limited to 81% of province’s population, while electricity is available to only 21% of the province. Overall, 88% of province lacks electricity, while 59% (of Province) lacks gas facilities. The province is utilizing only five major highways, which are mostly in a dilapidated state, while inter-district roads are almost non-existent.
A cursory look at the hospitals shows Balochistan lacks basic facilities for the treatment of ailing people who cannot pay for private hospitals.
On the other hand, the present faculty in hospitals across the province is never sufficient to treat the widespread population of eight million people. Owing to inadequate health and welfare services for children, hundreds of children are exposed to life insecurity. Insufficient medical care is adversely affecting children across the province. Healthcare facilities provided by both public and private organisations for the poor Baloch in urban and rural Balochistan are inadequate.
On the other hand, the quality of care is limited by the lack of technology and medicine. It is quite unfortunate that hospitals of the province (including the hospitals of capital city) suffer from shortage of beds, doctors, ambulances, professional staff and nursing services with free clinics and medicine. To fill the traumatic shortages, additional funds are needed to build up maternal and child health services because the federal grants for maternal and child health services are unsatisfactory.
Many of high-ranking provincial posts like those of police level of I.G, DIG, IG-FC, chief secretary etc are often filled up by non-Baloch elements, mostly due to unavailability of provincial resources, which if cared for, would still take at least a decade to build up. This factor is being strongly trumped up by political, anti-state and even civil society. As much of 6 districts of the province like, Gwadar, Turbat, Panjgur, Kharan Washak and Chagi) cannot have access to many commodities due to sheer distance of the areas. Most of these areas being in close proximity to Iran borders depend on cross-border trading which is often stifled by security elements, raising the situation to almost that of famine.
Rs.135 billion is being spent on all mega development projects going on in the province like the Coastal Highway, Gwadar Port, Meerani Dam, Subukzai Dam and a road from Gwadar to Rato Dero linking it with the Indus Highway, Quetta Water Scheme, a railway line from Gwadar to Kandahar, Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline and coal mining in Chamaling. Countless accords could be cited to these projects, which have been vehemently opposed by all political, social and even ‘nationalist elements on the grounds that their consensus had not been sought in any of these issues.
Following the course of events the provincial government ultimately took control over the Gwadar project and announced termination of federal government’s direct accord with Reko-diq; whence is recent meeting of ECC (economic coordination committee), and one of Supreme Court’s verdict has forced the federation to hand over the project to its rightful owner i.e. Balochistan. Renowned scientist Dr Samar Mubarakmand has termed the Reko-Diq project a national asset besides declaring the government’s intention of handling the project on its indigenous own.
Another hardened stance of Baloch grievances (primarily by secessionist elements) terms these mega projects an endeavor to deprive Balochistan of its natural resources. This is primarily due to the hardened sardars who feel any progress would threaten their own undisputed God-like rule over their impoverished subjects, while they also want to own the trillions of dollars’ worth of natural resources as their personal wealth.
The logic forwarded in Gwadar case is quite candid in which these elements have expressed their fear of becoming a minority right on their very own land. Of late this theory has been compounded by additional morbidity of violence and terrorism, while the government, as traditionally is, content on mere formal efforts to contain or defuse the situation. External involvement is also rampant as has had been propounded by government related agencies, which have however equally failed to redress the problem. India, as a traditional reality, leads the list of saboteurs followed closely by Russia, Iran and UAE. Many a logic is propounded over this external interference, but India’s is most authenticated over the fact that its rampantly growing presence in Afghanistan due to circumstances favoring it have given the traditional arch rival a chance to settle scores with Pakistan, covertly.
American interference is also boldly evident due to its primary concern to check any future Chinese intrusion into the warm waters of the Arabian Sea, while also endeavoring to keep a steady vigil of its another fast emerging adversary Iran. Meanwhile, the government’s initial policy in IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India) gas pipeline had omitted any gas supplies to Balochistan in favor of national level supply. This illogical and unpatriotic stance elicited an aggressive stance from the province, forcing the government to retract its policy, and announcing to supply the gas to all areas falling around the pipeline route.
the summary of above analysis, one is alerted to the explosive situation, Balochistan rests today.; whence masses are engulfed by morbidities of target killings, kidnappings for ransom, illiteracy, poverty bordering on the edge of famine; all the necessary for fuelling an indomitable urge of deprivation in this geographically largest Provincial unit of the Federation. And all this not because Balochistan lacks any fertility, productivity or resources; all of which are abundant, but for the sheer deprivation, being suffered by impaled masses , bonded in centuries of serfdom and official neglect.
This is being equally compounded by atrocities committed by government-controlled agencies, who are responsible for daylight abductions and kidnappings of citizens from all walks of life and beliefs, burning its own bridges. The situation is benefiting dissident elements who are viciously targeting citizens daring to raise the national flag, or singing National anthem in schools masses of the provinces. This indicates that unfortunately craftily observed secessionist movements, taking advantage of volatile struggle for constitutional and political rights have also gained a strong foothold, in tandem. This facilitates the enemy of the federation, while all segments of society alongwith imprudent rulers seem indifferent to the brewing storm.
In short, the Baloch people are justified in their stance that they should be handed over the rights of their resources in accordance with the 18th Amendment and NFC Awards. They also want to be repaid the more than Rs600 billion worth of royalty. Among other political issues they also want that the final report of Kharotabad tragedy should be made public, a case should be registered against President Musharraf and his cohorts for murder of Akbar Bugti, Balochistan Package should be implemented in letter and spirit and all military operations should be removed. They also want immediate end to a parallel government of FC and local police reorganization and training to operate in a better conducive manner.