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Editorial

OC
Our Correspondent
November 16, 2017

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Balochistan package

Balochistan package

When the PML-N government first announced the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor soon after taking power in 2013, there were claims it would bring development to Balochistan. The plan was quickly amended, as a greater share of projects was allocated to other provinces, but the original sentiment remained: that the way to ease the sense of deprivation felt by the people of Balochistan was to spend more money there. The same thought seems to have been in play during Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s visit to Quetta       on Tuesday. Abbasi announced a Rs 20 billion, 10-year package for Balochistan which would be used for the provision of gas, electricity, education and clean drinking water. While all investment in Balochistan – by far the most under-developed province in the country – is welcome, it is notable that the centre will only contribute half of the total money, with the difference having to be made up by the provincial government. It is also a bit late in the day for the PML-N government, which has less than one year remaining in power, to realise it needs to ensure that basic services are provided to Balochistan. This package will now be dependent on future governments and if there is one constant in our politics it is that there is very little continuity between different governments.

The main problem with this Balochistan package is that it misdiagnosis why the Baloch people are so alienated from the rest of the country. As the province most abundant in natural resources, it is because of political reasons that Balochistan does not receive its fair share of gas. Constructing LPG plants, as the government has been doing, may ease gas shortages but it is does not address the fundamental problem of gas from Balochistan being disproportionately sent to the rest of the country with the people of the province not even benefited financially from the use of their resources. The reason nationalism has taken hold and why even some more extreme groups hold appeal in the province is because there is a strong perception among the people of Balochistan that the balance of power between the centre and the province is skewed in the centre’s favour. Tackling that requires not just a package of economic development but political reforms. That would require the state to listen to Balochistan’s leaders rather than just announcing a package and believing that will solve problems that have existed for decades.

 

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