03 February 2012

2012: Year of Balochistan

Date: 26th January, 2012

On 25th December 2011, federal cabinet session was held in Karachi. After the cabinet meeting Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani declared 2012 as year of Balochistan. Later on the same day, Imran Khan while addressing a huge gathering in same city announced that his next such gathering will be in Quetta and He will take steps to make the situation better in Balochistan. It’s really good news for people of Balochistan. Still, it’s not known whether any practical steps will be taken or these announcements prove to be mere play of words by two politicians, one current Prime minister and one expected to become in future.

Since independence Balochistan has been most underdeveloped, backward and most turbulent province of Pakistan. There have been five military operations so far in Balochistan. According to reports of U.N sponsored NGOs living standard of people of Balochistan is lowest among all provinces. Security situation is also worse but that’s not my topic. I intend to focus on problems other than security, faced by people living in lengths and breadths of Balochistan.

Balochistan constitutes 43 percent of land and only 6 percent population of Pakistan. It’s a mineral rich province, providing gas to the entire country for more than five decades. Recently discovered gold reserves in RECODIK, a border area of Balochistan, value 260 Billion dollars in current gold rates. The value of these reserves can increase to an enormous amount of 1 trillion dollars by the time these are extracted. Total foreign debts of Pakistan are approximately 60 billion dollars and only a small part of RECODIK gold reserves can settle these debts. Balochistan is mostly arid and semi-arid and due to unavailability of water, agriculture is not a desired profession anymore.

Federal government has always ignored Balochistan. It has not given the due share of Balochistan’s development funds to the province. The job quota policy of Balochistan is not implemented. Many posts in federal departments, reserved for Balochistan are either vacant or filled by people of other provinces. Today out of 49 there is not a single federal secretary from Balochistan and not a single Pakistani Ambassador abroad, from Balochistan. The prevailing sense of deprivation among people of Balochistan is mainly because they are left out of federal structure.

Sui gas, which is extracted from Balochistan, is only available to few large cities of Balochistan. So the percentage of population having gas and electricity is negligible as compared to other provinces. In periods where rest of the country enjoys zero electricity load shedding; villages in Balochistan still have load shedding of 12 hours. Quetta, capital of Balochistan faces extremely low gas pressure and there is also load shedding of gas. One can think that gas shortage is the problem of entire country but that’s not true in this case. Firstly the population of Balochistan is too less and secondly even lesser people among this population have the facility of gas. So everything wrong is happening with Balochistan.

Prevailing law and order situation is also horrible. In most cities and towns of Balochistan people can’t get out of their homes after sunset, due to unchecked and ever-rising criminal activity. Highways are not safe to travel and quite often passenger buses are looted by criminals. Kidnapping for ransom and snatching bikes and cars on gunpoint have become profitable businesses in entire province. Law enforcement agencies also have unbreakable ties with the criminal mafias. Many politicians having important portfolios in government patronize the crime industry. Provincial government and bureaucracy of Balochistan are most corrupt in entire Pakistan.

As the elections are approaching, politicians are raising voice for Balochistan for point scoring. Meeting of Nawaz Sharif with Sardar Attaullah Mengal and the announcement of federal cabinet on 25th December are extensions of traditional policy of ignoring Balochistan by politicians. Imran khan the new political sensation and the hope of Pakistan also makes promises to people of Balochistan. No doubt, He is the cleanest politician in Pakistan and that’s why he is getting unprecedented support from people. Unfortunately his stance on Balochistan is not clear. People have not heard from him anything so far which makes them believe that He will treat Balochistan differently and in a better way.

Based on past experiences people of Balochistan don’t have much hope from their Year, 2012. So far in these 25 days of the 2012 they are not feeling any change. But the hope is the reason we all live and everyone can hope that 2012 will be the year when the, change in fate, of Balochistan is initiated. People from entire Pakistan have to support the people of the forgotten province in the quest to get their rights. Only then we will be able to achieve the dream of Twenty First century Pakistan.

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