By: Abdullah Khan
(The writer is Senior Provincial Civil Servant and policy analyst based in Quetta)
Balochistan; which is least populated and the largest, area wise, province of Pakistan, is highly confronted with governance issues and has seen worse law and order situation amid wave of insurgency pushing the province, especially the Southern part of the province in poverty and backwardness. This province requires interventions almost in all sectors of life to effect development and to stimulate economic growth for improving the life standard of the population. The province is blessed with natural resources and has got approximately two thirds of the country’s coast line which allow for ample livelihood opportunities in terms of trade and fisheries. Mines and tourism can contribute in speedy and equitable development if led by proper policy interventions. Long border with Afghanistan and Iran is another competitive advantage if tapped for formal trade. CPEC and the SDGs are the regional and international opportunities that are anticipated to generate employment and revenue.
The current Provincial Government has focused on the neglected sectors to be developed, prioritizing production, infrastructure and communication to pave way for development. The Federal Government also seems serious in helping the province to catch up for development. Recently, the Federal Government announced a special development package, called Development of Southern Baluchistan, which is an accelerated development plan for districts falling in Southern part of the province. Though Southern Balochistan includes many districts, under the proposed package few least developed districts, i.e. Gwadar, Kech(Turbat), Awaran, Panjgur, Khuzdar,Lasbella, Washuk and Chagai will be provided assistance for speedy and augmented development with the objective to bring these underdeveloped areas at par with rest of the province and the country.
This indeed is right policy direction for the reason that the epicentre of the insurgency, in Balochistan, is this part of the province wherein Turbat and Awaran are the burning points. Adjacent to these two districts is Gwadar, which has got prime important due to CPEC and has got huge potential for development and growth of not only Balochistan, but the whole country. Off course, for internal pacification military interventions are considered necessary by some scholars, but internal pacification, stability and national solidarity is rightly achievable through growth and development. The Southern Balochistan package thus is a right decision, which should have been implemented a decade back — — still not too late.
The Federal Government has pledged Rs. 600 billion package for development of these districts and is in consultation with the Provincial Government of Balochistan for finalization of projects, financial modes andimplementationplan. The Provincial Government is religiously following for the package to be finalized. Four main areas, that include communication, water, energy and industry have been identified for interventions. Moreover; Agriculture, Livestock, Skill Development, Tourism, Industry, IT, Education and Telecommunication projects are also under consideration to be included in the package. About 200 ongoing and new proposed projects in the aforementioned areas/sectors have so far been identified. The projects will be mainly funded by the Federal Government through Federal PSDP, while in the provincial PSDP alsosome projects will be reflected. Theseprojects will be implemented by the Federal Government through any of the relevant departments/agencies and as well as by the Provencal Government through the relevant departments or agencies. Some of the projects have been proposed to be implemented on Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode. The Plan and projects are not yet finalized.
The Provincial Government of Balochistan has prioritized important sectors for equitable growth and development. The Baluchistan development budget 2020-21 with a cost of Rs. 118 million inclusive of foreign funding, to a good extent covers the important sectors with 49% budget allocated for infrastructure development, 28% to social sector, while 24% allocated to production and multispectral projects.The Southern Baluchistan package will add to the development plan of the province to gratify the high prioritized sectors.
The areas identified for development under the federal government plan include up gradation and strengthening of healthcare facilities and system, establishment of industries in mines & minerals, fishing, tourism development and skills development for youth to make them equipped for CPEC. In education and IT sectors, important projects have been identified. Two important projects of agriculture and livestock will connect agriculture-markets and livestock markets of Balochistan with major markets of the country, which will help in promotion of the agriculture and livestock products of Balochistan. For communication and roads networking, important projects have been identified, that will not only accelerate development in Balochistan, but will connect the southern part with rest of the province and the country. Some of the important proposed projects are construction of roads in Turbat, Awaran and other districts which will help in development of main arteries in the province. Moreover; some very important water storage dams, which include mega dams also, have been identified to be constructed through this package. It will help in water storage, agriculture and livestock development, aiming at employment generation and economic growth. In a net shell, this package, if well planned and timely executed, will not only push the region towards economic growth and development, but will also help in internal pacification and national solidarity.