President Dr Arif Alvi has reconstituted the 10th National Finance Commission (NFC) to work out a new resource distribution formula between the Centre and the federating units. The NFC is a constitutional body meant to distribute financial resources between the federal government (vertical distribution), and the provinces (horizontal distribution). However, there is a growing perception that Balochistan is once again likely to be deprived of its due rights since no ‘son of soil’ has been nominated as a private member of the award.
Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest province in terms of land but it has been facing several challenges ranging from structural, administrative, political to economic since the inception of Pakistan. Civilian governments and military regimes attempted to resolve the question of political underrepresentation and economic exploitation of the people of Balochistan. However, there could have been no considerable successes.
The University of Management and Technology, Sialkot (sub-campus), conducted a webinar on Balochistan Today – Social, Political and Developmental Challenges to ponder upon the challenges the province is facing today. Maria Malik, an academic and researcher, highlighted the state of affairs in the country’s largest province. Ms. Malik is also the author of Balochistan Conundrum: The Real Perspective.
Ms. Malik noted that “the province has been in a state of conflict for decades where the Baloch mainly demanded their due rights and provincial autonomy. The grievances multiplied over the period of time due to lack of will at the federal and provincial level to resolve the political and economic matters. The arbitrary use of force further alienated the people of Balochistan.”
While commenting on the economic conditions of the people of Balochistan and the 10th NFC Award she highlighted that: “Over 70% of the people in Balochistan live in multi-dimensional poverty and half of the province’s population lives below the poverty line with lack of access to basic health and educational facilities. The province accounts for Pakistan’s 43% of the total landmass and is home to only 6% of its total population. The infrastructural development is almost next to none, highly un-urbanized and the employment opportunities are usually very competitive as the people of the province have to compete against people from other provinces for these job listings.”
She also noted that the recent nomination of Mr. Javed Jabbar for representing Balochistan in the 10th NFC Award has raised many questions in the political realm. “The opposition and several analysts believe, she maintained, “that the nomination is not representative of Balochistan and it’s fiscal interests and concerns and a person more specialised in fiscal matters of Balochistan should have been nominated by the provincial government.”
Why does Javed Jabbar’s appointment raise an eyebrow?
Although the provincial government has a right to nominate a private member to be part of the award yet there are some serious concerns with regard to the nomination of Javed Jabbar who belongs to Karachi, Sindh.
Notably, the four private members who have a critical role in articulating the views and interests of their federating units. The finance ministers, nominated for the NFC, come from political parties. They are elected representatives and most of them may not be public finance experts. They follow the directions of their respective political leaderships.
The private members are named for the NFC by the provincial governments after approval from their cabinets. They play an important role in achieving consensus on the apportionment of federal taxes among the units of the federation.
Mohammad Aslam Bhootani, an independent member of the National Assembly from Gwadar-Lasbela, disapproved of Javed Jabbar’s nomination. He told reporters that he would challenge the decision in court. “The chief minister did not find a single qualified person in 10.3 million population of Balochistan to plead Balochistan’s case in the NFC and protect interests of the province?”, he asked.
“Government should adopt an inclusive policy”
Ms. Malik suggested that “keeping the diversity and complex socio-political and economic scenario in view the way forward should be to adopt a more inclusive policies at both federal and provincial level”. “A strategy to keep Balochistan on board,” she argued, “regarding the decision making for mega development projects, the ownership and due share in the resources is pertinent”. She also urged the government that: “we have to devise a long term plan keeping in view the nature of job openings that projects related to CPEC and other development projects will bring to the province. In view of that, we need to train, educate and equip our youth and labour for the years to come so that they can secure jobs and we do not have to look towards other provinces for hiring a labour force and specialists when the need arrives.”
Ms. Malik encouraged the academia to play an important role in making a democratic and inclusive policy in order to ensure due rights and representation of every province at all forums. “The responsibility does not only lie on the federal and provincial governments (political and the apolitical) but also on other institutions like security forces and judiciary to play their role in strengthening the institutions. Also, academia has a huge responsibility of generating meaningful debates through teaching and research on issues of socio-economic and political development in the province of Balochistan,” she concluded.