Beyond Gwadar

April 26, 2015

Various development packages and projects that aim to benefit everyone except the Baloch

Beyond Gwadar

The development of Balochistan has been high on the agenda of successive governments during the last decade or so. A few examples are the coastal highway, Gwadar Port, Meerani Dam, Subukzai Dam, a road from Gwadar to Rato Dero linking it with Indus Highway, Quetta’s water scheme, a railway line from Gwadar to Kandahar… the list is long. But most of the projects remain incomplete.

In November 2009, former Prime Minister Yousaf Gillani announced the Aghaz-e-Huqooq-e-Balochistan package for the province which included six constitutional, five political, 16 administrative, and 34 economic proposals. The government promised to implement all recommendations and proposals in three years. The idea was to address the concerns of the people of Balochistan. The package failed to make any difference in the province.

In January this year, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, speaking at the inaugural session of Balochistan Development Forum, said that the development of the province was close to his heart.

The situation on the ground has hardly changed. Vast areas of the province are without roads, electricity, water supply, or any kind of employment opportunities or education and health facilities. The road density is still just 0.15km per square kilometre, which is less than half the national average of 0.32km per square kilometre.

Though the share of the province has increased from five per cent to 9.2 per cent under the 7th NFC Award 2010 but the share of non-development expenditure of the province which was Rs42 billion in 2008 increased to Rs155 billion in 2013, which actually neutralises the increased share of province in the 7th NFC award.

"The total development budget of the province for the current year is Rs40 billion while we need Rs60 billion to build 13,000 new primary schools in the province. Balochistan needs 1500 megawatts but the current transmission system can only carry 500 megawatts at a time. We need billions to build new transmission lines," says Jan Buledi, senior leader of National Party, member provincial assembly and spokesperson of Balochistan government.

"Our government has failed to provide jobs to the youth of the province. But we have made 12000 employees permanent. They were employed by the last PPP government under special package for the province," he adds.

Most of these mega projects, including Gwadar Port, and the Pak-China corridor have failed to provide jobs or economic activities to locals in the province.

 "The Gwadar project has failed to bring positive change to the lives of 150,000 people," says Syed Essa Noori, member National Assembly from Gwadar. 

"The Gwadar Port project has failed to bring any positive change to the lives of 150,000 people of Gwadar city. Ironically, labourers are brought in from Sindh, Punjab and other parts of Pakistan," says Syed Essa Noori, member National Assembly from Gwadar and leader of the Balochistan National Party, Mengal (BNPM).

Noori says there is only one secondary high school in the city. "How can we compete with people from other provinces when they talk about merit? We depend totally on rain for drinking water in Gwadar."

He terms the port project as a conspiracy against the locals. "The population of Gwadar would be 2.5 million after the port becomes operational, turning the local Baloch into a minority."

Noori believes there is a trust deficit between the federal government and the Baloch. "Last year, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited Gwadar. A briefing about the project was arranged for him at a local hotel. But I and other local Baloch leadership were not invited to attend the briefing."

He claims the leadership of Balochistan has never been informed about the details of any agreement between Pakistan and China on the Gwadar Port. "We do not know even the lease period of the port, leave alone other parts of the contract between Pakistan and China."

Also read: From Kashgar to Gwadar

Baloch youth also express similar views. "The local Baloch are not even allowed to visit the Gwadar Port or get jobs there. The same is the case with Saindak project," says Chairman Aslam, head of pro-government Baloch Student Organisation (BSO).

"The total development budget of Balochistan is around Rs40 billion. Just compare this amount with what Chief Minister Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif, has spent on the Metro Bus in Lahore -- Rs70 billion. So, the youth of Balochistan is disappointed. They see no future. There are no jobs, no business and no other economic opportunities in the province," says Aslam.

"Unemployment in Balochistan is over 20 per cent while poverty is around 50 per cent despite the fact that Balochistan is the most natural resource rich province of the country."

Balochistan government’s official report on the youth reveals that 67 per cent of female youth and 29 per cent of male youth of the province are illiterate, while 86 per cent female youth and 31 per cent male youth in the province are economically inactive.

A majority of Baloch nationalist political parties and militant organisations have rejected the mega projects. Dr Allah Nazar Baloch, whose militant organisation the Balochistan Liberation Front is active in Gwadar recently warned multinational companies and China to halt investment in Gwadar Port.

Pashtuns, the second largest ethnic group of the province, have also criticised projects in the province, especially the proposed Pak-China corridor. "Balochistan’s development is not on the priority list of Nawaz Sharif’s agenda. The agreement on the economic corridor is not between Pakistan and China but Punjab and China, believes Senator Usman Kakar, senior leader of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKAMP). "The Baloch and Pashtuns are so angry over the agreements," he adds.

His party is a coalition partner of PML-N both in Balochistan and the federal government. "Only a few Punjabis, including Nawaz Sharif, his brother Shahbaz Sharif, Ahsan Iqbal, and a few Punjabi bureaucrats know the details of the agreement," he claims.

Kakar’s party also holds the portfolio of Planning and Development ministry in the province but the federal government has not shared the details of even a single agreement signed during Chinese president’s visit. "The federal government has ignored us completely. All major projects are being started in Punjab and Sindh while the route has also been changed to benefit Punjab. Like the Gwadar Port, Saindak and Reko Diq projects, locals are being ignored in the corridor project."

Kakar, who took active part in formulating the Balochistan Comprehensive Development Strategy: 2013-2020, thinks the goals of the strategy would not be achieved. "Minor crops and livestock are the largest sector of the province and account for a quarter of the provincial economy. Manufacturing and finance together account for a mere 9 per cent. Things are not going to change in Balochistan unless the federal government takes special interest in developing the province."

Analysts see this disappointment among different stakeholders of the province as genuine. "Even ruling parties of the province are not aware of the details of the agreements on the corridor," says Dr Kaiser Bengali, economist and head of Chief Minister Balochistan’s policy reform unit. "The people of Balochistan should be taken into confidence over the development projects as after the 18th Amendment the provincial government is responsible for the development of the provinces."

"But the federal government has not been giving importance to the 18th Amendment. Balochistan needs a special package. Would you believe, there is no proper road linkage between Quetta and Gwadar," says Bengali

Beyond Gwadar