By Fahim Ahmed
What often emerge in our minds when we hear the word’ Baluchistan. For sure, it’s backwardness, insurgencies, unstable politics, development issues, Sectarian violence & Islamic extremism, Separatism, and so on. In this article, I would like to put an insight into the dire and major issues of Baluchistan and try to discuss possible solutions to the problems confronted by the province and its people.
As we know that Baluchistan is the largest province of Pakistan covering up to 44 percent total land area of Pakistan, reserves a prominent position in Pakistan’s economy due to its valuable vast natural resources, it’s geostrategic importance, and geopolitical significance due to China’s construction of Gwadar port as a part of China’s Belt and Road initiative (OBOR).
Since the day first, there’s been always a sense of negligence and deprivation among the people of Baluchistan. Be it economic inequality, education, health, or basic livelihood. Most of the population is compelled to live a life lacking fundamental rights. According to the UNDP’s poverty and Human Development report index, Baluchistan has been ranked first in the list followed by KPK, Sindh, and Punjab. Along that, multidimensional poverty is also highest in Baluchistan, nearly 71 percent of Baluchistan’s population lives in multidimensional poverty, where a high number of the population is experiencing an absence of basic health facilities, lack of education, Safety concerns, inadequate living standards, and unemployment. The common factor of poverty in Baluchistan is the high ratio of unemployment, economic inequality, and lack of livelihood earning platforms. Youth unemployment is consistently increasing; the unemployment rate is particularly high among educated youth.
Lack of Education is another factor of backwardness in Baluchistan. Among the four provinces of Pakistan, Baluchistan has the least literacy rate of 40 %. According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan, the female literacy rate in Baluchistan is estimated at 13 percent, while the male literacy rate is approximately 38 percent. It’s no doubt, a deep state of concern that Baluchistan has been witnessing a decline in literacy rate every following year while the other provinces are making improvements in this regard. According to the stats, Baluchistan had an overall literacy rate of 55% during 2011-12 and it’s experienced a drastic drop during the decade, decreasing to an overall literacy rate of 40 %. This scenario reflects the failure and negligence of the state and provincial governments that ruled during the years.
The root causes of illiteracy in Baluchistan are the lack of standard infrastructure in the education sector, especially in Baluchistan’s rural areas, shortage of teachers, and the least allotment of expenditures on education affairs. Furthermore, most parts of Baluchistan are still falling short of basic urban and rural development framework, such as standard transportation, roads, proper medical infrastructure for health care delivery, suitable places to learn and ensure access to education, awful condition of highways in the province causing deaths, inadequate transport, and communication system particularly in remote regions badly affecting rural areas of the province.
From 1948 till date, Baluchistan has faced five deadliest and bloody insurgencies, resulting in the deaths of thousands, and a shadow of fear and agony hovering over the region for long. These small wars and insurgencies have been the biggest reason for instability in the region and a massive obstacle in the way of development and prosperity, affecting the lives of the locals to a large extent.
To talk about the possible solutions and to bring stability and harmony in Baluchistan, for this regard, the central government, the provincial governing body, and the other higher authorities need to prioritize Baluchistan. History has taught us that, the vision of a well-established and prosperous Pakistan by any means is not achievable without a resilient, developed, and stable Baluchistan.
China Pakistan Economic Corridor, so-called the future of Pakistan and a game-changer for the entire region cannot achieve its future objectives and goals unless there’s stability and peace in Baluchistan. CPEC has its foundations in Baluchistan and it should be the government’s top priority to invest in infrastructural projects and higher education, ensure proper representation of Baloch people in the mega project. Under the CPEC project, employment opportunities for the local skilled and qualified individuals should be generated.
Under the objectives and goals of Pakistan’s Vision 2025, Federal authorities should focus on providing financial assistance for the betterment of crucial sectors such as education, health, reducing poverty, and human development to bring socio-economic development in Baluchistan, and to achieve its utmost targets assigned for Pakistan’s One-Nation One-Vision 2025.
Political autonomy in the province must be assured; external interference in internal affairs should be prevented in accordance with the 18th amendment. According to an unofficial survey, just a 37percent of Baluchistan’s population is satisfied with the performance of the current government in the province. This had been a scenario for decades in Baluchistan. The government of Pakistan should provide financial assistance and increase annual development budget allotment for the growth of key sectors such as regional infrastructural & social development, education, and health.
Baluchistan is richly blessed with natural resources but unfortunately, these natural resources have not been able to change the fate of its people. Despite possessing the largest gas reserves in Pakistan, still most of the parts of Baluchistan are deprived of gas supply. Chaghi, the land of Saindak Gold and Copper multi-million dollar scheme, still lack an institution for higher education, there’s not even a single university or an institution for higher education for the youth in that region. This is no doubt a clear evidence of iniquity and the state’s irresponsibility.
So far, the root cause of conflicts and uncertainty in Baluchistan is the exploitation and unequal distribution of resource revenues. Be it the natural gas, mineral resources, or the CPEC. So it’s a need of the hour that federal authorities should review their policies towards the provision of a proper share of the reserves revenue as proposed under the Aaghaz-e- Haqooq-e-Baluchistan Package (AHBP), to address the grievances of Baloch People.
To bring economic prosperity and tackle unemployment in the province, there’s much development required in the industrial and agricultural sectors. Forming new small and medium-sized industries, supporting enterprises and entrepreneurs within different regions of Baluchistan would surely create new employment opportunities, boost development and help in poverty reduction.
In order to cope with the ongoing low-level insurgency in Baluchistan, to address the safety concerns and eliminate armed resistance, the Military and Civil leadership of Pakistan should bear in mind that military operations and suppressing the voice of masses are verily not an option.
Battle against resistance results in more resistance” and it would ultimately deficit Pakistan. So, authorities are supposed to take civil leadership and all other stakeholders in Baluchistan into confidence, take them to a table of dialogue, review their demands, design a strategy to solve the issues and construct a plan of action. This is the time and opportunity for the government to eliminate the socio-economic issues of Baluchistan, put an end to years-long conflicts and pave the way for a stable Baluchistan and a prosperous Pakistan.
By Fahim Ahmed