Balochistan: Enhancing the Pace of Development and Prosperity

 

“Balochistan: Enhancing the Pace of Development and Prosperity”

 

Introduction

A one-day National Conference on “Balochistan: Enhancing the Pace of Development and Prosperity” was organized by Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) on October 30, 2014 at Serena Hotel, Islamabad. The conference comprised of two working sessions in addition to inaugural and concluding sessions. Five presentations were made by eminent scholars that covered various themes ranging from Identifying developmental issues of Balochistan to suggesting a way forward to enhance the pace of development in Balochistan.

 

Concept Note

Balochistan, the largest in area and the least populated province of Pakistan is less developed in socio-economic terms, its society still burdened with tribal structures even in the 21st century. The province is not poor in resources, though its small and sparse population is a handicap. But at the core of its lesser development lies the capacity failure of provincial governments and resistance from feudal lords to fully implement development plans. The socio-economic indicators highlighted in the PILDAT Working Paper (2012) show that Balochistan’s literacy rate at 51.5 percent needs to be attended to. Thin urbanization and high unemployment index (20 percent) have caused low annual growth rate.

The pace of development in Balochistan had remained slow during the colonial era as the British administration had focused on strategically important rail and road networks to link Balochistan with Iran and Afghanistan  ignoring the infrastructure needed  for socio-economic development of the region.  After the creation of Pakistan, Balochistan was given special attention in the second (1960-65) and third (1965-70) five year development plans, but lack of infrastructure and institutional weaknesses affected performance. The development efforts in the following years could not bring spectacular results for similar reasons. This was bound to create dissatisfaction among the people of Balochistan, who demanded greater socio-economic development. To alleviate the grievances of the Baloch people, central governments in succession have been taking various politico-economic measures but the capacity of provincial governments and tribal resistance has impeded progress.

In 2004, two parliamentary committees were constituted. The committee headed by Senator Waseem Sajjad was tasked to highlight Baloch concerns regarding constitutional issues while the committee headed by Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed was to identify Baloch reservations on establishing military cantonments and mega projects. The committees produced a set of recommendations for addressing Baloch concerns regarding royalty and gas development surcharge, share in federal government employment, Gwadar, construction of national highways and distribution of federal funds. For one reason or the other, these recommendations could not be fully implemented. The package of measures named the Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan introduced in 2009 addressed major concerns of Balochistan. While this plan was still in process, an important step in the shape of  the 18th Constitutional Amendment and the 7th NFC Award came about which met the basic demands of the Baloch people giving them greater autonomy and  larger share in the national fund. The work on these important initiatives is currently in progress with the government to properly implement the devolution of powers granted in the 18th Amendment.

The present government is laying special emphasis on the development of Balochistan. A number of projects are being undertaken with the help of Pakistan Army. It has brought relief to the people. The need to adopt people-centric socio-economic policies, promote agriculture and industry and utilize the opportunities connected with the development of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is being attended to.

To further fine tune, specify and provide insight into problems, Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) organized a one day National Conference on “Balochistan: Enhancing the Pace of Development and Prosperity” on 30th October 2014 at the Serena Hotel, Islamabad. It was aimed to identify issues and make recommendations for enhancing the pace of development in the province.

 

Proceedings of the Conference

Inaugural Session

 

Welcome Address

In his welcome address Ambassador Sohail Amin, President, IPRI, greeted the chief guest, chairs of the sessions, speakers and audience of the conference. He said that the purpose of the conference was to get benefit from the experience of distinguished speakers who worked on various projects in Balochistan in different capacities.

While highlighting the importance of the conference, he said that the timing of the conference was very appropriate since it would provide input to the government in streamlining measures being taken for economic development of Balochistan. He said that Balochistan had four agro-ecological zones and is popular as fruit basket of Pakistan. The province shares border with Afghanistan and Iran, therefore, it can become a hub of imports and exports. He was of the view that Gwadarport had potential to become the centre of communications between Middle East and China through China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. It would become gateway to Central Asian Republics (CARs).

He added that the pace of development in Balochistan had remained slow during the colonial era as the British administration focused on strategically important rail and road networks to link Balochistan with Iran and Afghanistan, hence ignoring the infrastructure needed  for socio-economic development of the region. After the creation of Pakistan, Balochistan was given special attention in the second (1960-65) and third (1965-70) five year development plans, but lack of infrastructure and institutional weaknesses affected performance. The Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan package (2009), NFC award and 18th amendment were important steps taken by the Federal Government in meeting the demands of Baloch people for greater autonomy and larger share in national funds.

Inaugural Address

In the inaugural address the Chief Guest, Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Chairman, Senate Committee on Defence and Defence Production, said that Balochistanissue was pivotal for Pakistan’s future. It is one of the oldest civilizations and richest in terms of minerals. He shared his experience of involvement in Balochistan. He said that the first time he visited Balochistan thirty years ago in 1984 and met all political leaders including both Pashtun and Baloch leaders. Later he published series of articles known as Balochistan diary and identified numerous problems of the area.

Mentioning the composition of the committee on Balochistan, he said, there were 38 members of the parliament including Mehmood Khan Achakzai, Asfand Yar Wali and Ishaq Dar. He said Senator Sana-Ullah Baloch gave presentation in the first meeting of the committee which laid the base for identification of problems. He informed that on the basis of that presentation the committee asked five ministries to solve those problems. He said that the committee recommended that provincial autonomy was the basic ingredient of strong Pakistan. Moreover, five percent quota of Baloch students was accepted by the Higher Education Commission (HEC). However, this percentage needed to increase. The committee had asked technical institutions to provide technical education to Baloch youth to reduce unemployment in the province. The Aaghaz-e-Haqooq Balochistan was based on the recommendations of the report of the committee. He stressed that themain issue faced by the government in the implementation of Aghaz-e-Haqooq Balochisan was resistance by insurgents.

Highlighting the positive steps taken recently, he appreciated the 18th constitutional amendment.Secondly, the role played by free media highlighted the issues of Balochistan. Thirdly, nationalist provincial government was formed in the province for the first time that comprised of true representatives of the Baloch people.According to Mushahid Hussain Syed, the most important development project undertaken in Balochistan was Gwadar port. He hoped it would be a game changer for the province as well as Pakistan, as it would promote trade in the region. It was the shortest route for Central Asia and China.

For future, he recommended that political elite should agree on some principles. There was need to respect the rule of law, human rights and the mandate of any party winning elections in Balochistan. The revenue issues should be solved according to 7th NFC award. The role of people of Balochistan in federal government institutions and armed forces was important. He mentioned that in Islamabad out of thirty eight grade-22 officers, there was only one from Balochistan. Greater representation of Baloch youth in armed forces was required.Being a controversial issue, further cantonments should not be established in Balochistan. He appreciated the former Army Chief of Staff, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani who did not establish Sui cantonment. He hoped that Balochistan had the potential to become the future of Pakistan in terms of economic progress through better policies of federal and provincial governments.

Session-I: Balochistan: Identifying Developmental Issues

 

Mr. Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad, Secretary, Ministry of Communications and former Chief Secretary, Balochistan spoke on “Development in Balochistan: An Overview.” In his presentation, he said that Balochistan had never been a focal region for development. It had 41 percent literacy rate, health was lowest as compared to other provinces of Pakistan. The maternal mortality rate was 785/1000. He informed that Dera Bugti and Barkhan were the lowest ranked districts in Pakistan with six percent literacy rate. Moreover, 10 districts were facing food insecurity. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was slowest in the province.

The speaker shared the statistics elaborating an overview of Balochistan before and after Partition. He said there were only 33 dispensaries in Balochistan before Partition, but in 2014 the number of dispensaries was 1355. The school enrollment had improved with the passage of time as there were 13563 students before Partition, but in 2014 there were 1.03 million students enrolled in Balochistan. He informed that the district with highest HDI was Panjgur; however, it was under attack by insurgents. Zhob division was the most deprived division in Balochistan. Before 7th NFC award, five percent share was allocated for Balochistan by the federation. This share was increased in 7th NFC award up to nine percent. The federal government PSDP share in Balochistan and all other provinces decreased over the past five years. During the last financial year, more than 90 percent funds were released. The maximum allocation was made in communication sector, whereas, health and education sectors were also the priority of the government.

He stressed that there was a need to develop communication between Gwadar and Khuzdar. The Kachhi canal started in 2001 and around Rs 30 billion had been spent on it but the canal was yet to reach the province. He suggested that Kachhi canal project be completed as soon as possible. Moreover, Balochistan’s energy needs should be met on priority.

On financial side, he said, there were very low revenues. Huge non development expenditures were also part of the problem. Heavy cost of development was required for Balochistan as compared to other parts of the country. He recommended that a better human resource was necessary for change in Balochistan. The governance issues were linked with human resource. Moreover, political leadership had remained divided on the basis of their local areas; split political mandate had been an issue of Balochistan from last three decades. The compulsions of a coalition government affected the governance sector of Balochistan. There was a need to strengthen middle class in the province.

 

Prof. Dr. Tahir Amin, Director, National Institute of Pakistan Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, presented his paper on “Impediments to Developmental Initiatives in Balochistan.” He focused on five questions, i.e., what were the Baloch grievances?  What was their narrative? What was counter narrative by the state? What were the major domestic obstacles to the development of Balochistan? What was the way forward?

Answering these questions, he said, the Baloch dissidents viewed Pakistan as a centralized state which did not want to provide provincial autonomy. Secondly, they had grievance about getting more share in the natural resources of Balochistan. The third grievance was that Balochistan was being given less attention in heath, education and communication infrastructure. On the contrary, the state had its own narrative. According to the state, Balochistan had historically remained underdeveloped and sardars were the main reason for underdevelopment, who also had not given enough attention to people’s welfare. The people of Balochistan were being negatively influenced by some foreign powers, as well by distorting facts of Balochistan.

He recommended that for stability and development of Balochistan the provincial governments should carefully balance between sardars and the middle class of Balochistan. It was the duty of the federal and provincial governments to provide roads, hospitals and schools and ensure trickledown effect to common people. He pointed out that there was a need for coordination among all stake-holders for the sake of Pakistan. The meddling of foreign powers was based on Balochistan’s strategic location. However, the external factors were not the determining factor. The determining factor was the internal issues which needed due attention. The reconciliation of Balochis should be the primary goal of the state. Apart from developmental efforts of the government, political reconciliation should also be given due attention.

 

Session II: Enhancing the Pace of Development: A Way Forward

 

Prof. Dr. Masoom Yasinzai, Rector, International Islamic University, Islamabad,spoke on “People Oriented Approach to Socio-Economic Development”. He said that Balochistan was widely recognized as a pivotal point for creating greater peace and security in Pakistan. It was full of natural resources that offered great potential for development. He said that Balochistan was politically South Asian while ecologically Central Asian in nature. Because of various constraints, Balochistan has remained less developed. It has relatively worst human development outcomes, extreme poverty and the lowest health and education levels. Unfortunately 2.3 million children remained out of school in Balochistan. According to him, 42 percent of 10 to 18-year-old girls had never attended school and only 32 percent of Balochistan’s population above the age of 10 years had completed primary level education which was the lowest in the country, compared with the national average of 47 percent. Balochistan’s educational facilities were also the lowest in the country. Approximately half of the province’s 10 to 18-year old students dropped out before completing primary school education. All these ills of Balochistan are due to poor performance of successive provincial governments, although federal governments were also responsible for some lackings.

He suggested that strong rationale should be adopted for integrated development through building and strengthening local institutions as partners of development and social change. Any formula of success should encompass institutional building at the community level; in the integrated and participatory development strategies; and in private and public investment opportunities. This will empower communities and reduce poverty. Moreover, diversion from agricultural and land reform to industrial development could also be of benefit. He opined that to deal with this gruesome situation, federal and provincial governments needed to provide a sense of ownership to the people to improve social and economic conditions, especially in the rural areas.

 

Prof. Dr. Iqrar Ahmed Khan, Vice Chancellor, University of Agriculture, Faisalabadpresented his paper on “Role of Agriculture and Industry in the Development of Balochistan”. He emphasized on the topographic diversity of Balochistan. It had some limitations like water scarcity, i.e., only 12.76 MAF of water based on 13 major basins. The silver lining was the presence of 33.16 million acres of land suitable for agriculture that made up 39% of Baluchistan’s area. He informed that irrigated area, i.e., canals, perennial, and tube wells covered 2.39 million acres. Moreover, main water projects in Balochistan included Sabakzai dam, Mirani dam, Kachhi canal, Kirther canal, and Patfeeder canal.

He suggested that potential area suitable for agriculture could be increased to 4.5 million acres if suitable amount of water was available. On-farm water management practices comprising watercourse improvement, laser land leveling, pressurized irrigation, perforated pipe irrigation and rainwater harvesting would help in growing off-season vegetables. These efficient irrigation practices would improve land and water productivity. He recommended that saving Karez system would be a big help to the people of Balochistan. Dr. Iqrar suggested that high value crops such as fruits and vegetables needed to be grown using drip irrigation system coupled with liquid fertilizer application. Furthermore, he pointed out that fisheries on the coastal belt should be utilized which remained as untapped resource of the province.

 

Mr. Fazal Ur Rehman, Executive Director, Pakistan Council on China, Islamabad, made his presentation on “Impact of Pakistan-China Economic Corridor on the Development of Balochistan.” He started his presentation by quoting the famous Chinese saying that, “If you have to start a journey of thousand miles, you need to start from small step”. He informed that basic agreements between Pakistan and China on economic corridor had been finalized and many projects were in progress. While discussing the possible opportunities for Balochistan in the development of Gwadar seaport, he said that Gwadar itself would be an economic hub of development for Balochistan. It would open doors of development for many economic and social sectors in the province. Another economically potential sector in Balochistan was mining sector, as the province had rich mineral resources that lie untapped. Mining sector would flourish after Pakistan-China economic corridor would become operational and it would help in reducing unemployment in local areas. Thirdly, human resource development would take place due to this project.

While discussing alignment issue of Pakistan-China economic corridor he said initially it was decided that it would be connecting China through Balochistan and KPK but in recent past it had been shifted eastwards. The issue of alignment needed to be resolved through consensus of all provinces. He opined that there was a need to develop a special design for development that should be balanced in its approach. It should not be Gwadar centric rather it should focus on the development of other areas too. People’s participation was pre-requisite for the success of any economic project in Balochistan. Moreover, there was a need to think for increase in public private partnership.

He suggested that micro, medium and small size industries in Balochistan should be strengthened. There was a need to develop positive image of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as there existed wide misperceptions about the development of this corridor. He hoped that the mining sector in Balochistan would bring prosperity but there was a need to incorporate all measures to protect the environmental security. He stressed that new developments have brought about new challenges and there was need to remain prepared for them.

 

Concluding Session

 

Concluding Address

 

Prof. Dr. Javeid Iqbal, Vice Chancellor, University of Balochistan, Quetta was the Chief Guest in the concluding session. He said that the history of Balochistan had witnessed the march of a number of great conquerors and warriors in the past, but none of them had left any indelible imprint relating to development. In 1839, the British rule started through a highly centralized but small administration. The defence orientation of the administration precluded development and educational pursuits. Thus the area remained deprived of educational, social and economic development. However, some strategically important railway lines and roads were constructed. These included a railway line and a road branching off from Sukkur in the adjacent province of Sindh and passing through Quetta to Nokundi on the Iranian border.

After the creation of Pakistan, Balochistan joined Pakistan, but any significant development didn’t take place from 1955-70. However, during that period the region had received special attention in 2nd and 3rd Five Year Development Plans. The lack of infrastructure and institutional arrangements hindered the developmental efforts. The size of developmental outlay increased from Rs. 22 million in 1960-61 to Rs. 66 million in 1964-65, round about Rs. 70 million in 1970 and Rs 1510 million in 1990-91.

Economic and communications infrastructure played a vital role in accelerating the pace of development. The construction of roads was the main focus of the present government, however, more work needed to be done in this regard. Balochistan was the jewel in the crown of Pakistan’s economy. Gwadar had rapidly emerged as an international deep sea port city. Its’ declaration as a duty free port and free economic zone had enhanced its commercial worth and accelerated the pace of development. Saindak project of Balochistan had brought Pakistan in the list of gold producing countries. The income of Balochistan from the project was two percent. This percentage needed to be increased for the rapid development of the province.

Citizens of Balochistan had also realized the importance of skill based knowledge. They were mainly focusing on science and technology that resulted in producing human resource and had contributed in the total development of Balochistan. Both federal and provincial governments had created opportunities for the talented students of Balochistan to study abroad. Hundreds of students from all over Balochistan were pursuing higher education in the developed countries of the world. Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan and other mega projects of the nature were also helping in curtailing the rate of unemployment which would resultantly uplift the standards of living of the backward segments of the society. The slow and steady political awareness among the masses was bringing the sense of responsibility and a check on the bureaucratic and political institutions. Therefore, based on above facts it may be concluded that developed and prosperous Balochistan would guarantee developed and prosperous Pakistan. He called on the members of civil society, media, policy makers, thinkers and politicians to participate in enhancing the pace of development and prosperity for the sake of stronger Pakistan.

 

Vote of Thanks

Ambassador Sohail Amin, President, IPRI, thanked all participants, who attended the conference, for their valuable contribution and gracious presence. He appreciated the scholars who presented their papers and the audience who participated in lively discussion sessions. He informed the audience that conference recommendations would be shared with the policy makers.

 

Recommendations

From the conference proceedings and discussions, following recommendations were presented:

  • Development of Balochistan is pivotal for the progress and prosperity of Pakistan. Therefore, there is a need to understand that a strong Balochistan means a strong Pakistan. Strong provinces are important for a strong federation. Greater provincial autonomy should be ensured.
  • There is a need to redefine the notion of national security in the new situation. The parliament, economy, human rights, and rule of law are ingredients of national security. It also embodies human security which is the core of security. All these sectors should be developed simultaneously to radiate a sense of comprehensive security.
  • Gwadar port will be the game changer. It will serve as an economic hub for Balochistan, Pakistan and the region. It is the shortest route for regional connectivity. The construction of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) from Gwadar will entail rail and road links development which in turn will enhance the progress and prosperity of Pakistan. This project should be pursued on fast track.
  • Rule of law and respect for human rights for the people of Balochistan must be ensured and the mandate of any party who wins elections in Balochistan should be respected.
  • As provided in the NFC Award, 15% of the total revenue generated from Balochistan should be judiciously utilized on local development and 5% of it be utilized on the social uplift of the people of Balochistan.
  • Representation of the people of the Balochistan in federal and provincial governments should be enhanced expeditiously to bring it at par with its population.
  • There is a need to reverse the previous wrongs and adopt a new approach towards the development and prosperity of Balochistan.
  • Enhanced share of funds for Balochistan allocated by the federal government must be released.
  • We should not consider Balochistan as an item in the laboratory, but as a federating unit, as important as other units.
  • The development of Gwadar port is a game changer but to reap actual benefits it is essential to connect Gwadar with other parts of the country. Therefore, roads connecting Balochistan with KPK should be constructed on immediate basis. The development of Gwadar can discourage disgruntlement in the province, provided local people share the perception that it is in their own interest to go ahead with this project.
  • The federal government needs to counter insurgency through development and there is a need to translate the dream of development into ground reality. The gap between planning and execution of projects should be bridged.
  • State needs to expedite the development of projects laid out for Balochistan, including M-8 and N-8 highways, Kachhi Canal and Dadu-Khuzdar & D.G Khan-Loralai electricity transmission networks.
  • In Balochistan, heavy cost of development should be kept in mind, and financial issues should not be mismanaged at local level.
  • The federal government needs to provide good quality human resource to Balochistan, as it is necessary to change the situation and perception in Balochistan.
  • There is a need to create a lobby in Islamabad to represent Balochistan. Balochistan’s water issues, law & order, and underdevelopment should be discussed openly, with an objective to find innovative solutions.
  • There is a need to improve human resource development indicators, especially literacy rate and health care.
  • Development, education and political participation should move in tandem; in isolation these indicators would provide disgruntled youth.
  • Balochistan enjoys a pivotal strategic position in the context of trans-regional connectivity; hence there is meddling of foreign actors such as India in creating trouble in Balochistan.
  • It is the state’s policy which holds the key to resolving obstacles in the development of the province. It is state’s duty to ensure that benefits of development trickle down to the people.
  • The state has to carefully balance the policy of patronage and policy of addressing the grievances of the people.
  • National leadership should debate and decide the future line of action with respect to the system of governance in Balochistan.
  • The state should listen to the grievances of Baloch dissidents.
  • All the stake-holders should be taken on board. At the moment they do not have a unified vision. There has to be coordination among all stakeholders.
  • Political leadership of Balochistan has a constituency-centred fragmented approach. There is a need to come out of this mindset.
  • Construction of railways and water channels are the way to development in the Punjab and must be emulated in Balochistan.
  • On-farm efficient irrigation practices be introduced to improve land and water productivity. Karez irrigation system also needs revitalization.
  • Ground-water mining needs monitoring.
  • Water resources monitoring and management policy is needed for sustainable use of the resources of Balochistan.
  • High value crops such as fruits and vegetables need to be grown using drip irrigation system coupled with liquid fertilizer application.
  • Off-season vegetables under tunnel farming have the potential of about five lakh rupees per acre if managed properly.
  • Need for quality human resource development in agriculture and industry is indisputable.
  • Livestock farming is the biggest opportunity; marketing and value addition must be pursued in the context of exports to the global Halal Market.
  • Extreme poverty, political instability and lowest health and education facilities are some of the main problems of Balochistan. Therefore, there is a need to adopt a community based, integrated and people-centric approach to ensure the development of Balochistan.
  • Education can be the answer to most of the problems faced by Balochistan. To provide better education environment, the province must be brought out of current economic and political malaise.
  • Development is linked with progress and peace in the province. There is a need to involve the people and create a sense of ownership among them through their greater participation.
  • Political and economic development will need to take into account Balochistan’s unique physical, environmental and demographic conditions. It is important to understand the culture, social norms and traditions of the province.
  • Profiling the region is important including the potential areas, and development budget may be allocated to them accordingly.
  • Public-private partnership needs to be institutionalized for development of Balochistan. Where government capacity is limited, private sector with its dynamic character can make up for the shortfall.

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About the Author

Mr. Khurram Abbas is Assistant Research Officer (ARO) at Islamabad Policy Research Institute. He holds MPhil degree in International Relations from National Defence University (NDU), Islamabad. He is doing his PhD in Peace and Conflict Studies (PCS) from Centre for International Peace and Stability (CIPS), NUST, Islamabad and his thesis is “Role of Social Media in Radicalization Process: Analysis of Muslim World with Particular Reference to Pakistan". His area of interest includes, Perception Management, Role of Social Media, De-Radicalization Strategies, Counter Violent Extremism, Religious Extremism in South Asian region with particular emphasis on India, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mr. Abbas regularly participates in National and International Conferences. He undertakes extensive research and regularly contributes in academic research journals and national/international dailies. Email: khurram306pcips@nipcons.nust.edu.pk

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