Armed Forces Contributions in Developing Baluchistan
By Javed Iqbal
Pakistan occupies a unique location vis-à-vis trade and transportation of Central Asian States’ energy resources down south through Gwadar Port. Whatever strategic routes are contemplated for the purpose by outside powers, they crisscross the province of Baluchistan. Sequel to handing over of Gwadar Port’s operations to Chinese authorities on contract, a surprising disquiet on part of United States and India has been observed. Both the countries have been active in Baluchistan trying to create anarchy as part of a greater agenda to wrest the province from the federation of Pakistan at some point of time in the future through sustained support to separatists, terrorists and mercenaries. Baluchistan has become a soft belly of Pakistan for them.
The State is to be blamed for letting the Province to this exposure to foreign aspersions. Persistent sense of deprivation, extreme poverty, absence of social and developmental work and state’s failure to integrate Baluchis with the dynamics of national unity and harmony, have added to the unease in the province. To compound the already destabilizing effects, covert operations and the un-diplomatic activities of Pakistan based diplomats from US and India have contributed to the instability in Baluchistan. The patronage of separatist elements of Baluchistan by elected representatives in the United States and India, with total disregard to international norms of non-interference in affairs of other countries, have gone to strengthen their separatists beliefs. Most of these separatist leaders have been given sanctuaries in the West from where they off and launch their anti-Pakistan activities with the respective states looking at the other side.
The outgoing political government doled out huge funds to members of the Baluchistan Assembly throughout its tenure of five years for carrying out development works in their respective constituencies. However, unfortunate as it can be, all that money was criminally pocketed by the outgoing legislatures. The government at the center blinked on misuse of crores of rupees provided to the provincial legislatures just to keep them on its side. In the process the growing sense of deprivation amid extreme poverty brewed anger amongst Baluchis and in the absence of any outlet to went out their frustration, they have become susceptible to be lured in by separatist leaders. This has been the ideal situation for the foreign agencies to exploit and water seeds of alienation in people against the state of Pakistan. In such grim environment, it were the armed forces of Pakistan that came to the rescue of the state on Baluchistan and whole heartedly started investing in development and economic infrastructure of the province. Pakistan army and the Navy have worked overnight to improve the lot of Baluchis. Whereas the Navy concentrated on social, educational and economic developmental activities around huge areas of sea ports, air bases and other operations cum training infrastructures by essentially making local Baluchis as stakeholders, the army also came in a big way and launched development works and other social and economic activities all over the province in an effort to douse Baluch sense of deprivation and alienation.
The long educated deprived population of the province has been afforded new vistas in education sector. Both the Army and the Navy have gone extra miles to accommodate thousands of seats in their respective education and other professional institutions like medical colleges and technical institutes located not only in Baluchistan province but also the other provinces. Pakistan Army has been in the fore front in reviving long disputed Chamalang Coal Mines Project. The revival of the project has resulted in huge job opportunities for the Baluch people. As many as 73500 individuals of Luni and Marri tribes were afforded jobs whereas 2000 other individuals were employed as guards at the facility. Over two million tones of coal has been mined thus far and the process continues. After the reopening of the coal mine, Chamalang beneficiaries Education Program was devised by Pakistan Army under which over four-thousand local Baluch students are being provided education free of cost. Pakistan Army has also enrolled over 12000 Baluch and are passing through regular military training for adjustments in various cadres of the Army. A door has also been opened to induct educated youth of the Province in Pakistan Army and the Naval Academies to become regular officers in respective services. In Dera Bugti area, Pakistan Army has also launched development works to provide jobs to the locals. A hefty figure of over 1500 job opportunities have been created, 31 health centers have either been renovated or established, around 500 grazing animals have been provided to the needy locals hailing from Dera Bugti and the surrounding areas besides provision of financial assistances to around fifteen hundred needy people. Provision of natural gas to the local homes in Sui area has commenced without any charges. Pakistan Army’s Chief of Staff General Kayani during his last visit to the same venue had also inaugurated a Military College for the youth of Baluchistan and vowed to sponsor a separate education city and a fifty-bedded hospital at Sui.
Irrespective of whatever system of governance exists in any country, it is the duty of government at the center to maintain national cohesion at all costs. In its failure to deliver on this count especially with regards to Baluchistan, the job that was primarily the responsibility of the last democratic government in Pakistan, is now being taken up by the armed forces of Pakistan in the province. In its endeavor to bring the province in the national mainstream, other national and private institutions must also pitch in collectively to pull out the province from its dark times. The national response in the past towards natural disasters elsewhere in the country has been enormous and exemplary. We need to take a leaf out of that character with regards to improving the lot of people living in Baluchistan. Pakistan needs similar responses yet again to reassure our Baluch brethren on affording them their rightful place in Pakistani state and the society