Modest expectations from Balochistan

Published on – August 7, 2017 – 7:00 am

QUETTA: Some observers of the political scene believed that it was an undeclared monarchy under Nawaz Sharif that was toppled through the Supreme Court verdict. It was not a functional democracy in its practical sense.

QUETTA: Some observers of the political scene believed that it was an undeclared monarchy under Nawaz Sharif that was toppled through the Supreme Court verdict. It was not a functional democracy in its practical sense.

Mian Nawaz Sharif was an undeclared monarch and he behaved like an uncrowned king of Pakistan through his conduct and dealing with the democratic institutions.

During the four years of his misrule, he visited around 80 countries of the world developing personal relations with the heads of the Governments and States by retaining the portfolio of Foreign Minister.

On the contrary, he attended only four sessions of the National Assembly, including the one which he addressed to defend himself and his family following Panama Paper Leaks in which he was accused of corruption amassing huge wealth by misusing official powers

He shown contempt particularly to holding of meetings of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) as he hated the concept of ‘democratic federalism’ and preferred ‘undemocratic centralism’. He evaded consulting his Cabinet colleagues on many issues and he took personal decision like a monarch.

Now there is a change of Government in the country. He had been disqualified for his entire life. He will be facing more than 12 NAB inquiries or corruption charges. His politics and his carrier as a national leader is doomed and only a miracle can bring him back in politics and re-launch him once again. Pakistan is facing a much bigger and more serious crisis than sparing time and efforts to bring back Nawaz Sharif on the prime political position again.

There is a new Government in place running the affairs of the State presumably a better replacement to some extent. The first and good job the Prime Minister was the appointment of a political colleague as a Foreign Minister on full time basis.

With the assumption of the responsibility, Foreign Minister, Khawaja Asif, paid a visit to the Foreign Office and got a formal briefing from the Secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other top officials and diplomats in regard to the foreign policy issues.

The change at the Federal level had been widely welcomed by the broad masses in this province expecting a far better treatment to the most backward province of Balochistan. The former Prime Minister spent only hours and not days in attending the problems of Balochistan during his official visits.

There is a hope that the new Government will give a better treatment to Balochistan and its people as they form half of Pakistan with its porous borders with Iran and Afghanistan besides a 1200 mile long coast line touching the mega sensitive Straits of Hormuz where a huge flotilla of the NATO forces is ruling the oceans.

There is a constant complaints against the Federal Government that it had ignored the pressing problems of Balochistan—mainly rampant poverty, backwardness. The Nawaz Sharif Government denied a reasonable and modest pace of economic development for this backward province.

Kachhi Canal, the only mega project that was under construction, had been shelved. It was under construction for the past quarter of a century. It is announced that there will be no plan to build the remaining Phase two and three of the Kachhi Canal. The first phase is complete as it will irrigate around 50,000 acres of land in Bugti Mainland. There will be no construction of the proposed Canal beyond this point. It is a deep shock to the entire people of Balochistan.

It will be a legitimate expectation that the new Government will revive the Kachhi Canal Project as it will prove to be a game-changer in economic terms irrigating more than 0.7 million acres of highly fertile land. Or it will ensure gainful employment for millions of people in the Kachhi Canal Command areas and beyond. Kachhi Plains is spread over to more than 7.5 million acres of fertile land. The Government should seek international support, both technical and financial assistance, for irrigating the entire land making Balochistan the ‘food and fruit basket’ of the entire region.

Secondly, construction of second phase of Gwadar Port should be started without any delay. The Government had already approved the plan to build five additional berths at the Gwadar Port so that it is made functional at the earliest providing transit trade facilities to the landlocked Central Asian countries. Pakistan can earn at least 10 billion US dollars a year once the Gwadar Port is complete and it is handed over at the disposal of international market forces for its better use.

The prime duty of the Federal Government is to build a decent infrastructure for future development so that its rich mineral resources are fully exploited for the benefit of the entire people of Pakistan. Construction of roads should be given priority, making available energy resources, electricity, solar and wind power, natural gas for the potential investors so that the pace of economic development is accelerated to a reasonable speed.

It is pity that not a single industrial unit was established in Balochistan beyond Hub and Vindar. There were two huge textile mills unceremoniously closed down and its machinery worth over billion disposed of on the pretext of establishing two universities to justify closure of the mills and denial of jobs to over 20,000 jobless in both the Pak-Iran Textile Mills at Uthal and Quetta.

The closure of both the textile mills confirmed the belief of the people that the Government is opposed to development of Balochistan with a special objective to deny means of livelihood to its people. The Government is yet to dispel that engraved impression from the minds of people.

The main economic artery of Balochistan is RCD Highway linking Karachi with Tehran. It is in shambles needing massive repairs. The Road was planned as part of the Marshal Plan in 1950s for developing the war raged economies and countries during the World War II. Its construction took more than 60 years. Now its portion from Naushki to Daftan is in complete shambles needing immediate repairs.

Similarly, the power transmission lines should be replaced with new one to cater the full load. Balochistan needs no new power plants, particularly the costly one being built by the Chinese as cheaper energy is available at our door-steps from various locations and Iran is charging less than half the cost of per unit we generate in Pakistan.

In regard to political affairs, the Provinces should be made fully autonomous and the Federal Government should concentrate on defence and foreign affairs improving the image of Pakistan. Domestic affairs, including planning for development, should remain in the domain of the Federating Units.