Balochistan makes up 44% of Pakistan in terms of geography and is also the most resource-rich province in the country. It offers some of the best assets for development. It is generously endowed with natural resources and location. It has the largest land area of any province in Pakistan proving vast rangelands for goats, sheep, buffaloes, cattle, camels and other livestock. Its southern border represents approximately two-thirds of the national coastline, providing access to an important basin of fishery resources. As a frontier province, it is ideally located for trade with Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia and Persian Gulf countries. For the past four decades, it has supplied cheap natural gas to Pakistan’s economic centers, supporting the country’s industrialization.
This province has always remained in the headlines of international media and political fraternities for different reasons. They are actively involved in the political, economic and security situation of the mineral-rich province. Apart from this, there are also hostile elements, which work proactively to derail the economic progress of the province, attract the sympathies of anti-Pakistani elements and massively provide financial support to successor elements. These hostile elements are also involved and are spreading radicalization, extremism, terrorism, panic and a chaotic environment in the province.
Pakistan is well aware of the situation on the ground in the province and has extended massive political and economic support to the provincial leaders to improve the economic situation in the province. Additionally, the government of Pakistan has also launched various social programs to improve the educational conditions of the province. Students from Balochistan are offered admissions to various top universities in Pakistan to pursue their higher education. They also get maximum incentives in this regard.
Likewise, the government and armed forces of Pakistan are determined to improve the overall situation in the province. Our forces are working tirelessly to eradicate the threat of terrorism from the province while the civilian government engages the political actors in the province to integrate them into mainstream politics. The popular masses of the province have also taken part in the political process, which bodes well for democracy. The active participation of the people in the political process negated all the propaganda, undertaken by hostile agencies, to derail the political and economic progress of the province. This political rapprochement in the province is the result of the tireless efforts of our government and the armed forces for peace in the province, thanks to which the insurgents abandon their arms and join the traditional political process.
Similarly, residents participated in local elections in Balochistan. The massive turnout was recorded and the entire electoral process took place peacefully. People’s participation in local elections expressed confidence in democracy by rejecting the resistant/armed narrative of the Baloch insurgents. Successor elements also join the mainstream political process leaving separatist groups in the process, which are funded by hostile intelligence agencies. This is indeed a great victory for our political process and the credit goes to our brave armed forces, who sacrificed their lives to bring peace and development to the province.
Not only politically, the Pakistani government is also striving to bring huge economic opportunities to the province, which aims to improve infrastructure and other important core areas. To achieve this goal, the Pakistani government and the Chinese government have launched marathon economic projects to build poor infrastructure in the province. A practical example of such progress is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). CPEC covers various projects and most of it is also related to the development of Balochistan in general and Gawadar Port in particular. Chinese and Pakistani engineers are working tirelessly to use the province’s untapped resources for economic stimulus.
The development policy of the provincial government is based on all the sets of programs implemented by the government through the Public Sector Development Program (PSDP), the federal PSDP and other programs of the federal government. Under the above development programs, road and irrigation infrastructure, educational and health institutions, agriculture and industrial development are given the highest priority so that the socio-economic condition of the masses s improves and employment opportunities are created.
Similarly, Balochistan offers an excellent experience of inclusive development, tackling poverty and regional income disparities by exploiting its comparative advantage, investing and developing its human resources and connecting it to the national market for goods and services. . The structural barriers that have placed the province at a disadvantage can be offset through proactive and strategic interventions. This would require a comprehensive approach in which federal, state and local governments, the private sector, NGOs, academics and professionals and security agencies would all work together for a common agenda. Despite the efforts of hostile elements, the province is now on the right track with an increase in political activity across the province. To further improve the economic situation of the province, there is a need for a comprehensive Provincial Development Strategy for Baluchistan which outlines key areas of investment for inclusive growth and provides the roadmap for integrated development in the province. Furthermore, the Pakistani government and armed forces have successfully defeated hostile agency terrorism, extremism and cyber warfare. The province prospers democratically as they say: “Democracy is the best revenge”.
The author is a regular contributor based in Islamabad.