Balochistan – 44% area of Pakistan – a population of 13 million – is arguably the most complex puzzle in today’s Pakistan. Complex – because not much is known about the problems. Complex – because not much is being done. Complex – because there is very little debate and understanding of the issues and the root causes. At one hand, India is alleged of meddling in Balochistan affairs. On the other hand, a suspicious eye is cast on the Iranians. Some even blame the Chinese of trying to secure a colony under their Belt and Road initiative. Whatever it is – or not – the common Baloch is suffering, and there is no doubt in it. And among these allegations, the role of the state of Pakistan in averting the impending stalemate, is nowhere to be seen.
The sufferings of the Balochis, and the mountainous risk for Pakistan, are interlinked. A common Baloch – not mentioning the Sardars – is deprived of even the basic facilities of health, education and employment. Justice lies with the tribal Sardars. Roads and other infrastructure seems a fairytale. We have failed them. We have failed the children there, who could have survived, had they had hospitals. We have failed all of the young men, who ever tried to raise a voice against the Sardars, and got killed by the mighty Sardars. We have failed the ordinary Balochi. Ironically, the government of Pakistan has been releasing funds to the Balochistan government, in the same fashion as it does ti other provinces. But the Balochistan assembly and cabinet has always been occupied by the Sardars, no lesser than gods of their tribes. The money embezzled, piling up their fortunes and keeping their people illiterate, deprived and cut-off from the world, hence crookedly preventing any threats of revolts again their own cruel dominance. The common Baloch kept deprived by Sardars, Pakistan been blamed, foreign spy agencies provided perfect raw material and the situation getting complex each passing day – is the short story of Balochistan.
The deprived lot, having no exposure to the modern world and lacking awareness, is the easiest prey for the Liberation movements (alleged to be RAW’s brainchild). A military action against such individuals, who in the eyes of the same less aware comrades are fighting for the right cause, will obviously yield more resistance, and the revolt is bound to magnify exponentially. So the obvious solution is to provide them with the basic facilities atleast, which we couldn’t, in the past seven decades, and improve the abysmal state of literacy, enabling more Balochis to enter the mainstream.
But its easier said than done. Its a vicious perpetual cycle, which has to be broken by the incumbent government, before its too late. Impediments include low population density. Quoting Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, in 1998 population density of Balochistan was 19 persons per sq. km. as compared to 359 and 889 in Punjab and Islamabad respectively. Provision of schools, hospitals, roads and electricity becomes a herculean task, and renders it financially infeasible. The other major hurdle is Sardars themselves, who have had share in each government, and will continue to do so, and won’t let their people prosper, because of the fear of losing the godship.
What is the solution?
Simply, Urbanize Balochistan. Surprising? Indeed it is, but there is no other viable solution left. Lets do some simple maths. Out of the 13 million of Balochistan’s population, around 10 million is scattered rural population lacking any infrastructure. Assuming it to be 2 million familes, same number of houses would be required. Five major cities, with 0.4 million houses each, be developed by the government, and handed over to the poor rural Balochis, deprived for seventy years, either free of cost, or on long term of lease of 20-25 years. The relatively fertile are from Dera Bugti and Dera Murad Jamali to Sibi, Ziarat and Quetta can house a couple of cities, and the coastal belt will accommodate another two or three. A couple of billion tree tsunami project might be launched by the Balochistan government to make it liveable. Funds of Balochistan government itself would suffice for provision of basic infrastructure of roads, schools, universities, hospitals and other government services. Vocational training and microfinancing for setting up businesses in newborn cities be provided by the GoB. Business and job employment for non-Baloch residents should be banned initially to help the new tenants find suitable living. Land around the cities be declared agricultural land, and the locals be facilitated in agriculture and livestock, as many would prefer sticking to the skill they already have. A solid employment plan be devised. Transportation of people to the new cities, and their luggage (and cattle if any) be provided by the government.
The cost of housing will be huge obviously, but don’t the Balochis deserve a $50-70 bn out of the $460 bn mineral reserves which the Prime Minister claims about Balochistan?
But the million dollar question is, who will bell the cat? How will the Sardars let the cities be developed and let their people shift to those cities? If we don’t have an answer to that, we should prepare ourselves for the catastrophe, which we are on the perfect collison course with.