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Friday, March 1, 2024

Balochistan needs everyone’s attention

A new powerful monsoon system has disconnected Balochistan from the rest of the country, causing flash floods, broken bridges, and heavy rainfall that has washed away communication roads in the province. The devastating rains have not only damaged roads and cut land connectivity in the city, but flooding in storm drains has also caused internet and mobile network outages.

We will fall short of adjectives if we try to put into words the intensity of Balochistan’s misery. Here bolts often shower from the blue to add further tumult to the province’s plight. People continually found themselves in the vortex of de novo insurmountable tribulations and afflictions; common people are pathetically left in dire straits. It is a tale of deprivation, suppression, subjugation, and exploitation. Woefully, climate catastrophe has compounded the province’s predicament.

Heavy monsoon rains and flush floods continued to wreak havoc on the province. It took a great toll on lives; a plethora of human settlements and houses were knocked down; livestock and agriculture were swept away; communications were disrupted; and, roads and infrastructures were ripped asunder. Put simply, climate calamity proved to be the last straw that broke the camel’s back.

Read more: How flash floods have affected the people of Balochistan

Where did we go wrong?

Given the deplorable condition of the province, the provincial government has neither the capacity nor resources to rebuild complete infrastructures of the province, compensate people for their losses, undertake rehabilitation work, and provide human basic needs such as shelter, food, healthcare facilities, potable water, and emergency relief funds in an equitable manner.

To understand the nub of the issue, there are two main variables that have obstructed the province’s progress thus far. First, the geography of the province is a great impediment. The mountainous terrain and scarcity of water have made it difficult for the government to build communication infrastructures because it needs plenty of resources to develop roads and other infrastructures. And Balochistan constitutes approximately 44 percent of the country’s landmass, so it needs tremendous funds and resources for infrastructural development.

Second, demography is another stumbling block in the path of Balochistan’s development. According to the 2017 census, the population density of the province is 36 persons per square kilometer, which is due to mountainous terrains and a dearth of water. A sparse population has made it cumbersome to provide basic needs to people who are dwelling in far-flung mountainous regions. Development cost is huge to connect the dispersed population with urban centers and provide basic necessities such as education, healthcare facilities, roads, electricity, and water.

For developing Balochistan, it is sin qua non to chalk out pragmatic measures and implement them with letter and spirit bereft of any discrimination. Any failure to pay attention to the Balochistan conundrum will exacerbate the living condition of the people. That will augment their resentment and sense of deprivation.

Read more: ‘Kana Yari’ singer loses home in Balochistan floods

As a result, there will be a deterioration of law and order in the province; increment in ethno-nationalist and regional sentiments; degradation of state-society relations; growth of sympathy for the nationalist elements; and, aggravation of geopolitical complexities. Therefore, it is imperative to carry through some convenient blueprints for the development of the province.

How can help Balochistan?

Political consensus: It is high time to turn the crisis into opportunity. The federal government, politicians, military and all other stakeholders need to start a national dialogue and political consensus to resolve the Balochistan issue. There is indeed no military solution to the Balochistan problem. It is purely a political and economic issue, so it must be dealt with accordingly.

True political representation: political engineering has added fuel to the fire. People have no trust in their political representatives—powerful elites, feudal lords, and tribal chieftains—because these people at the helm of power are considered clowns in the political circus. Only shedding crocodile tears in the national or provincial assemblies does not alleviate the tribulations of people. It needs political will and commitment to resolving the issues people have been grappling with for generations. Transparent elections and true political representation can facilitate the resolution of the Balochistan conundrum.

Power devolution: empowerment of local government is critical for trickle-down effects. Administrative and fiscal devolution is mandatory to achieve the desired result. Since Balochistan is a large geographical landmass, devolution of power is perhaps one of the chief prerequisites for an efficient and effective developmental program.

Institutional capacity building: the institutional capacity building is necessary for carrying out development works, preparing to meet disasters, mitigating risk, and providing timely emergency relief. We often found armed forces in the forefront during any cataclysm, while the relevant institutions are unable to undertake effective rescue operations owing to their lack of capacity and resources.

Allocation of funds: allocation of funds is also imperative to take the development forward. Unless sufficient funds are divvied out to different sectors to provide services, institutions will remain toothless bodies and continue to be an only spectator in the hour of need.

Read more: Plights of poor Balochs of rich Balochistan

Institutional coordination: institutional coordination is another important area that must not be shrugged off. As long as each institution tends to function in its own capacity without the proper web of coordination, it will be preposterous to provide an efficient and timely response.

Creation of administrative units: it is also required to create small administrative units because it becomes difficult for the provincial government and other governance of machinery to carry out their administrative functions from Quetta given the geographical constraint, lack of proper roads and other communication channels.

Incentivization of the local economy: it is mandatory to incentivize the local economy. Balochistan has tremendous natural mineral wealth, agriculture and livestock potentials, and marine resources. These sectors are grossly neglected; therefore, people are obliged to make the ends meet either through smuggling goods from Iran and Afghanistan or going to gulf countries for trying their fortune to get employment.

For stimulating the local economy, there is a need for rural-urban communication infrastructures, and storage facilities for agriculture, livestock and marine products. Besides this, the government should allot more funds for these sectors, create employment opportunities, and strengthen minerals and mines, agriculture and livestock productions and marine sciences faculties in different universities and colleges so that these faculties help uplift the local economic development.

Read more: Recent floods in Balochistan and its implications

CPEC and socioeconomic development: last but certainly not least, the CPEC will greatly facilitate the socioeconomic development of the province. It is incumbent on the federal government to accelerate development projects under the CPEC. Roads and railway tracks should be constructed across the province in order to bridge the communication gap. Under the CPEC, educational institutes, hospitals, industries, and developmental projects are to be created in different parts of the province in order to allay deprivation.

 

The writer is a strategic affair and foreign policy analyst. He tweets at @drsho_aib. The views expressed by the writers do not necessarily represent Global Village Space’s editorial policy.