Naseer Memon | June 11, 2013 | Published in The Express Tribune.
The political sagacity of stakeholders in Balochistan has rekindled the fading hopes for restoration of peace and prosperity in the province. For the last several years, Balochistan has remained a tinderbox, with hundreds of people brutally killed in an orgy of extrajudicial murders and targeted shootings. The state had virtually abdicated the province and left it at the mercy of an assortment of militant outfits and corrupt politicians. Local people, especially the educated young, are frequently picked up and their mutilated bodies are dumped and often brutalised by carnivores in desolated areas. Dozens of young Baloch are still missing and their familes are inconsolable — no state institution has as yet been able to adequately address their demands despite making skyrocketing claims.
Hopes were attached with the previous regime when the PPP government was ruling both the province and the centre. Although a series of measures were introduced to sedate the restive province, a lack of political will stymied the desirable results. Aghaz-e-Huqooq Balochistan, the 18th constitutional amendment and 7th National Finance Award (NFC) all failed to alter the grotesque ambience. Huge financial resources were funnelled and a special job quota was allocated for the province, but the cesspool of corruption and bad governance eroded all potential benefits. The share of Balochistan increased from 5.1 per cent in 2006 to 9.09 per cent in the wake of the 7th NFC. As a result of that, Balochistan’s share increased from Rs45 billion in 2009 to Rs83 billion in 2010, Rs93 billion in 2011 and Rs114 billion in 2012-13. The province also received an additional Rs10 billion against a surcharge on natural gas. In 2012-13 the province earmarked 35.8 billion for development projects and this year, Balochistan was the only province with a surplus budget, yet only a pittance reached the masses.
The Balochistan conundrum merits a genuine effort and not empty overtures. While the previous government made generous financial allocations for the province, it installed a corrupt and inefficient team to fix the issues of the province. Ghost projects, unbridled crime and unhindered piling of dead bodies sufficiently testify to the lack of sincerity on the part of the previous regime. The province remained a hotbed of violence and crime and Islamabad remained mostly indifferent. Not even a semblance of government was felt there for the last five years, which engendered persistent despair and anguish among the local people.
The choice of Dr Abdul Malik Baloch, a consensus candidate with proven integrity, as the chief minister of Balochistan augurs well for the province. With a credible Baloch nationalist as chief minister, a pro-democracy progressive PkMAP representative in the Governor’s House and a sensitised and steadfast government in Islamabad, there would be in place the best possible combination to extricate the province from the quagmire of crisis. An immediate challenge for the new government would be to ensure that no more dead bodies are received and missing people are retrieved to pacify the enraged and traumatised Baloch. A transparent governance structure would be the next desire of the people of Balochistan. Judicious use of development spending can bring some solace for the disgruntled masses. Dr Malik’s government would have to confront a number of other irritants. In the long run, the right over decision-making and benefits accruing from Gwadar port and other coastal resources would make up the political agenda of the province. Education, health and drinking water services are also in tatters. The province merits a long-term development plan by harnessing the enormous potential of mineral resources of the province. Projects like Saindak and Reko Diq should benefit the local population on priority. A leadership with prescience and commitment can bring Balochistan back from the brink.