Jam Kamal Khan belongs to Baluchistan’s new breed of politicians who realized that the people of Baluchistan also expect accountability and transparency as part of modern-day politics.
Najma Minhas: How do you explain the enigma of what is called Baluchistan?
Jam Kamal Khan: To understand Baluchistan, the land has to attract people to come here and learn about it. Most have viewed Baluchistan through the eyes of a few people, that of few party leaders or other such representatives. But that was not Baluchistan and certainly did not cover the whole of Baluchistan.
Whoever comes to an important seat in Baluchistan, remains very much focused on his own constituency, his district and maybe his own clan; he is least bothered about looking at Baluchistan as a whole or ensuring that all areas of the province get their due rights and share, including infrastructure, finance, etc.
This has been going on here for the last 50-60 years and it’s still happening. But now is the time where I think we should give credit to a few stakeholders, who have really opened up Baluchistan. And the key success of changing this whole thing is, opening up Baluchistan so that the people of Baluchistan see the rest of the country.
This will stop the old status quo stakeholders, who have been sitting on different political positions and many other important positions, to realize that they cannot continue to buy out people with their old political slogans; when the people had no communication and no access to the rest of the country, they believed in whatever was told them. The people were kept literally in the stone age with no access to any modern services.
Najma Minhas: Is this what differentiates you from earlier leaders? You are being talked about in Islamabad as the new leader in Baluchistan who is going to achieve a lot?
Jam Kamal Khan: What our government will really focus on above all is putting in place a good governance structure. After being the Chief Minister of the province for five months – it is not that I am new to Baluchistan, I have been in the system for a very long time – but in my point of view, I feel that for the last 15- 20 years, we have really not invested in our systems.
The organizations that we have, the authorities and the departments have been totally neglected for the last 15 years. We need to fix them and make Baluchistan as an example for other provinces.
Currently, when we talk about Baluchistan, we say that how can a province that is so backward, with few human resources, which does not really have a good economy of its own and which has been in a turmoil for the past 30-40 years, how can it come up with things that can be used as examples for other provinces too?
I believe that Baluchistan has a lot of capacity in terms of its people and there is a will but it has not really been given the right platform for people to come up and show what they can do and perform. So, how do we start? We are lucky that the same changes have come to Pakistan at the Federal level also.
The Prime Minister and his government – I am not trying to praise the federal government for what they can do for Pakistan- but what we are witnessing in terms of many subjects, it’s a sign that we are now going towards a good direction and that is we have to put in place systems in Pakistan.
There is a need to uplift, update, bring in new legislation, reform the legislative system, bring in new amendments and bring in the right things at the right time. The thing that I am trying to change in Baluchistan more than anything else is to decentralize financial authority and administrative authority back to the district level.
Around 20 years back, we used to have this, but for the last 15-20 years, a lot of this was centralized at the provincial level. Baluchistan is so big, its 1800 kilometres from one point to the other point. This means 1800 kms, for people to travel to Quetta for access and to get their political, financial and administrative rights, which is very difficult.
So, it is important that we decentralize the authorities, the jobs, the financial strings and try to see how the districts are going to manage it. With one order you cannot give one policy to the whole of Baluchistan, because every district is diverse. It is unlike Sindh and Punjab, where you can see a constant infrastructure, a way of life and agro-based phenomenon.
Baluchistan is different because at one point you have places which are very rich in agriculture, such as the Nasirabad division where we have canals, etc. and then when you compare it to Awaran, it’s completely different over there, same goes with Taftan and the Pathan belt, everything changes across the districts. So, we cannot put up one policy for the rest to follow.
Najma Minhas: So, you are going to decentralize funds to the districts via your local governments?
Jam Kamal Khan: Yes, we are. We are doing it in two ways, we are trying to give more financial autonomy to the upcoming local governments and at the same time, we are giving financial space to the system organizations such as the deputy commissioner, the health department, the education department, etc. Even in terms of recruitment, we are giving them a new system in which they can recruit their own people.
For example, if there is an officer in Khuzdar and he needs 50 teachers to be posted in different schools, now he won’t have to wait for a policy from the provincial government which is announced in the newspaper and which might take another year to be filled in. He can simply go in with the district committee and ask applicants to come in and eventually hire them on a contract basis.
Najma Minhas: You have been CM now for over five months. What are the major challenges you see facing Baluchistan that you want to improve in your tenure?
Jam Kamal Khan: The first and most important one is that there is no governance structure or mechanism. Things are mostly dealt with on as per need basis; there is no policy to a specific department that says what the department’s role is, what its goals should be, where it stands and what mechanism it needs to adapt so that it can do much better.
The second thing that I am facing is the tight fiscal space we have. For the last fifteen years, the provincial governments that have come in, have accumulated a throw forward of nearly 400 billion Rupees – this is almost $4 billion that we need to complete our ongoing schemes which aren’t even 40% complete yet.
The PSDP (public sector development program) is one of the main mechanisms which transfer policies into infrastructure both for the federal governments and the provincial government, so this scheme is really important. But the mechanism that we all have adopted in the last fifteen years has not really been implemented at the ground level.
After coming in as a government, we debuted a committee, which is called the Chief Minister Inspection team to examine the different government schemes. They have seen 800 schemes out of 4000; and out of these 800, 60% do not exist on the ground and only show in the books. So, whatever we are spending, not only are we are spending it wrong but it does not even exist!
The third thing I wish to tackle is the financial mismanagement which has been happening in Baluchistan for a very long time, including corruption and issues of transparency and accountability. There was a time, where one cabinet meeting used to happen in eight months.
In the last five months, we have had more than seven total cabinet meetings; we have held cabinet meetings which have lasted for over 12 hours. We are doing more deliberations with departments and have given them short-term, mid-term and long-term targets and strategies, which they should be following in their departments.
If we don’t put in the right things in the system, the result will be negative. If you don’t manage your water system properly, obviously it will deplete. If you won’t spend the public’s money in the right areas, your infrastructure will not benefit the people or the economy. If you are not placing the right people in the education and the health systems, your institutions, facilities, and schools will not deliver up to the mark.
So, the whole system needs to be addressed, we have to do an analysis of the system, examine the weaknesses and potential of the system that we have, the areas that needs legislation and financial assistance, the places which lack infrastructure development and all these things clubbed in the right manner and in the right place will then bear the right result.
We have done more legislation in the last five months as compared to the last 70 years. And we have done legislation as basic as; for example, the building code of Quetta which made in 1935, we changed it and brought in a 2018 building code; and the same goes for health policy and the education policy.
We have brought in the act for Baluchistan Revenue Authority; we have created endowment funds – there have been a few previously – but now we created social endowment funds, with which we can help out people at the community level to give them financial strength, so they can start up with their own businesses.
We are bringing in administrative financial decentralization by giving fiscal space to the deputy commissioners and commissioners, who can manage a small number of schemes and requirements of the communities at their own level.
Najma Minhas: What are some initiatives that you intend to pursue in the next five years? Are there any priorities?
Jam Kamal Khan: I have a long list. Because in Baluchistan nothing has happened yet. So, initially, I had a plan of focusing myself on four things. My first and main focus is on good governance; if I don’t have the right set up in place, all my policies cannot go on the ground.
Then we come to education, health care, law and order and job opportunities or economic opportunities that the people of Baluchistan should have; at the same time, we are faced with a water crisis, an agriculture crisis, etc. So, when you have the whole system in shambles, it is very difficult to take up a few areas and work on them exclusively.
That is why my main focus is on the bigger picture, which is getting the governance structure in place and that will automatically bring in 60% change in the overall performance of each of these. And once all of that is in place, then we will pick up the main areas from each sector.
For example, in education, what we are working on is access to education for people. For that, it’s important for them to have a teacher who can give them that education. So, we are working on the infrastructure, there are a lot of schools which don’t have buildings, there are a lot of places that don’t have teachers to teach and there a lot of existing schools with teachers that don’t go to work.
For example, in Nasirabad division the new commissioner took strict measures and not only revived 144 primary schools but also decreased costs by Rs 20 million a month in salaries from ghost teachers and other such things.
So, I have decentralized a lot of things to the commissioners and the deputy commissioners, and I have made it obligatory on the commissioners to go to one of their districts once a week; similarly, I made it obligatory on the deputy commissioners to visit one of their main towns once a week. Just going to these places will change a lot of things. Same goes for the secretaries, the ministers and the same I have applied to myself.
Till now, I have visited four divisions in five months. I have gone with my cabinet members and there is one more thing – we are trying to take the majority of our cabinet members to these places, who are ministers of different departments, so while they are sitting in the cabinet meetings, they know about the ground reality.
Najma Minhas: Let us look at the opportunities, what are the reasonable, graspable opportunities for Baluchistan?
Jam Kamal Khan: One of the few low hanging fruits is the area of fisheries which Pakistan has not exploited yet. Vietnam is a very small country but has an export of almost $6 billion. Once I had a private investor come to Baluchistan to see how they can invest in fisheries.
They said that our water is much better than theirs and he was surprised that there was no work being done over here. There is a new concept called ‘cage fish farming’ which you do inside the sea but close to the coast. This concept is similar to controlling livestock, growing it and then selling it; so, your quantities are fixed and the same goes for the fish over here.
Then we have natural resources in Baluchistan, which already provide a lot of job opportunities, in places like Muslim Bagh, which is a rich area for Chromide; we have Chamalang, Quetta, and Machh which are high in coal; we have the Chagai belt and the Tethyan belt which are rich in copper, gold and precious stones; then we have Khuzdar belt and Lasbela belt which are quite rich in manganese, iron ore etc.
Now there are two approaches for this. One is a local approach where investors with small amounts can go in and create job opportunities for the local community. Then comes the mass mining concept in which we are more focused on coal and copper zones, which requires larger investors.
Najma Minhas: These are all basic products, is there any emphasis on the technological revolution to jump over towards higher value product areas?
Jam Kamal Khan: Well, in terms of technology, the bandwidth does not exist in most of Baluchistan. There are very small areas like Quetta, Hub, and a few more which have connectivity and human resources for this. We are going to some smart cities; we have already initiated those concepts.
Before there used to be safe cities, but now we are trying the new technology, we have made Gwadar a smart city. We are trying to expand an IT corridor in Quetta, that’s already in place. And we are trying to go for the concepts of telemedicine and tele-education as well.
Najma Minhas: Are you attracting local labour to this place or international businesses?
Jam Kamal Khan: Well, currently there are a few companies which exist in Quetta because that’s the only hub with slightly better expertise in terms of human resources. But at the same time, there are a lot of companies in Karachi and Lahore which we are trying to bring in.
We have started a few concepts of technology, let’s say in terms of education, we have a very good system in place; we know which school exists where on a geo-global positioning system.
There is a system which has been placed, where people can put up complaints through telephonic communication and at the same time, we have a system where we can really know the enrollment of each school. We are trying to replicate the same system in health too, we are trying to go for e-filing also.
There is another project in place which is called ‘digitizing the maps’. And this will take a little bit of time because these things have not been initiated for many years, so they are stagnant and we are reviving them.
Najma Minhas: CPEC is, of course, a massive game changer. What is the percentage of revenues you would be getting directly as a province from CPEC?
Jam Kamal Khan: Well, it has been unfortunate that in the last five years, CPEC has not really contributed in any way to Baluchistan. We have received only 3% of the overall money which has been spent by CPEC, and that also only in two projects – one is a power project near Karachi and one is the Gwadar Port. We have not received a single penny yet in any other sector and it is very unfortunate.
Najma Minhas: On the NFC awards that were given, the certain share was to be given to FATA by all provinces. Punjab, KP and Federal government agreed but Baluchistan and Sindh refused to reduce their share. Why is that?
Jam Kamal Khan: Baluchistan is the biggest province in Pakistan in terms of its land mass, it occupies around 44% but when you include the sea territory, it goes up to 51%. It is a very backward province because the infrastructure is at a very low level and it has a low density of population which makes it very difficult in terms of administration and requires spending a lot of money to take services to people.
We have 9% share from NFC, but there were a few components that were missed out from the last NFC. It was based only on a few factors such as land and population. But there were certain things which nobody realized at the time, but Baluchistan, being a very big province, has very large infrastructure needs also, each of the district administrations is very far from each other.
Now in order to provide any service delivery the expenses of travel, maintenance, etc. are a very big cost to the service-provider in Baluchistan. If people had health facilities in their own village they would not need to travel 700kms to Quetta. And at the same time, the province is lacking good infrastructure which means hospitals, schools, villages, etc. in many areas we still don’t have roads.
Furthermore, for the last ten years, we have been very much affected by the law and order situation, which has made the area lose a lot of agricultural, economic and job opportunities, a lot of human resources has shifted away from the province, people have left schools, colleges, hospital services, etc.
If they would have been in their areas, they would have invested more money, they would have grown more crops, the markets would have flourished, the job and economic opportunities would have increased. So, we have lost some ten years. Now, we cannot wait any longer to revive those ten years.
Najma Minhas: Is there any argument about creating more than one province within Baluchistan? For example, in Punjab, there are arguments for making more provinces because of these administrative issues such as travelling a long distance to provincial headquarters.
Jam Kamal Khan: I am of the belief that Pakistan does need more administrative blocks. We are starting it with decentralizing it to the divisional and district levels. But at the same time, there is a dire need to think of our need for new provinces. I feel Pakistan, with a population of 220 million people, is becoming really tough to manage for at the level of provincial headquarters.
Either we adopt new provinces or we strengthen the divisional headquarters and make structural reforms, like putting senior bureaucrats – anything equal to or above 20 grade – and try to give them a new secretariat concept.
A person travelling from Jiwani to Quetta covers 1200 km and everything is centralized over there, from his pension to his job promotion, etc. So, yes we are trying to decentralize it at all levels to the district level and district divisional levels. But at the same time, I think a lot of deliberation is needed to explore more options.
Najma Minhas: Baluchistan has had unprecedented violence since 2006, in terms of insurgency movements and other violence as well. What is your government doing on this and how are you planning to get this under control?
Jam Kamal Khan: Well, we are quite fortunate that under the government of 2013, we saw a lot of deliberation and effort in order to bring the law and order situation under control in Baluchistan.
This made things much better for us when we took charge, but obviously, we cannot sit idle and do nothing. There has been a lot of deliberation and bringing in people from different communities, including people who had taken up a very strong stance against the state.
Najma Minhas: There was a question of Brahamdagh Bugti and others saying that they want to negotiate and come back to Pakistan. Are you negotiating with such people?
Jam Kamal Khan: This is news to me. Well, there is a new concept which we are trying to tell the world and to the people of Pakistan. They are called the ‘naraz Baluch’. I say that the true naraz Baluch are those without water, schools, roads, infrastructure, and jobs. It is because of these naraz Baluch, the happy Baluch sitting outside are taking advantage.
So, if we cover this aspect, I don’t think that the people of Baluchistan will be exploited anymore. At the moment, because of poverty, they have been deprived of a lot of services, a lot of infrastructures, facilities, etc. which they should have as a common citizen of Pakistan.
That is why a lot of people are exploited. But now, our main focus is to deliver to the majority of people of Baluchistan, in terms of development. And once we do that, we will be covering a lot of aspects. Already, a lot of common people have seen the true reality behind what for the last 7-8 years, they may have been involved in or what they were used for.
They see the same political parties, which 10 years used them or activated them against the government and later themselves used it to come into power and into decision-making scenarios. So, the people of Baluchistan are now quite aware and I think that technology has really helped out people – especially telecommunication services like WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Najma Minhas: Do you think that they would hold Sardars more accountable now?
Jam Kamal Khan: They would hold accountable any person who is not doing his work right. And I think that should be the main core plan, whether a Sardar, layman, middleman or anybody – no person should be above the law and should have discreet authority in making decisions for their own benefit.
In fact, we are trying to bring in the social accountability aspect even more, so that the people of Baluchistan should now decide and the best thing they can decide is by voting for the right people. I am quite optimistic that the way things have been changing in Pakistan for the last one year; it has really given people hope.
It is not what people see as a big change, its basically the intention that really matters in our society, if people of Pakistan see a good intention and some movement in that direction, I believe that the people really support the kinds of steps which the government or even to an extent, an individual, might take.
And that’s what we require, we require the right people to come in politics, the system, the right places, etc. to make us see the potential we have in Pakistan and try to achieve the required targets.
Najma Minhas: You mentioned the naraz Baluch, but what about the missing Baluch? Akhtar Mengal recently met the Prime Minister to forward his six points and what is being done on those missing Baluch. What is the government doing on this?
Jam Kamal Khan: As you know, in Baluchistan we had the longest missing camp ever set up by Mama Qadeer and Mr. Nasarullah; on our assurances, they took it off after ten years, for two months.
We are engaged with them, I met the Prime Minister as the CM, I went and shared my thoughts with different stakeholders and the government and the state is now trying to see what best can be done in really identifying and authenticating the data which is placed in many places. You will be surprised that when we met the camp people, their initial list of last ten years’ missing persons given to us consists of 133 people.
There is some data which is by the UN, our interior ministry and some political parties as well. And if you ask them about the mechanism that they adopted in identifying the missing people – they tell you they were given lists by their workers and people, which is what they forwarded to us and other people. So, obviously, the authentication of such lists is very important.
Najma Minhas: You mentioned good stories exist in Baluchistan. Can you share a good story that really appeals to you in the last five months that has happened, while you have been in the government?
Jam Kamal Khan: Well, the good story that we would really like to tell everyone is that the people of Baluchistan have a lot of potentials. As a government, we think good stories are the reforms that we are bringing in education, employment, governance structure, and in making the cities cleaner.
For the very first time, we have started a campaign for closing down and taking action against substandard health drugs that are not allowed to be sold or made. We are closing down health labs, pharmacies, and dispensaries that are run by unqualified people. We are trying to bring in reforms in the higher education system, we are trying to bring in reforms to support the departments that do not have any legislation.
A small example is Quetta which is the biggest city of Baluchistan, has no traffic bureau. Even if you get a hold of people who are not abiding by the law, there is no law to take them to the court. We are also bringing in new jail reforms and have even created the nutrition act which has not been done before in Baluchistan.
At the same time, there are more than 400 schemes, on which more than Rs 40-50 billion have been spent, and are just standing there for the last six years – they need just 5% fiscal space to be completed – we want to complete these. On the social side, we have opened up to the public to have access to us.
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Najma Minhas: How have you opened it up?
Jam Kamal Khan: I am on Twitter with them and I interact with them. I have done a survey of my twitter account and I have around 40,000 followers which may not be that big. But the best part is that 95% of the followers are from Baluchistan, that’s what matters to me, so I don’t need to have a twitter account of 1 million followers and not have any from Baluchistan.
At the same time, we are trying to open up grievance cells for the people at the divisional level, where people can come to certain offices and stakeholders and can express themselves. We are giving them portals, we are trying to bring in different Apps so that they can have access to departments, their heads and even with the Chief Minister.
This is just the beginning. We are taking feedback from the universities; for the first time, I have written to universities asking for their contributions from their intellectual point of view about what the government should do. We have also asked other parts of our society, especially NGOs, people from the social side and other provinces.
We are trying to organize different seminars for them so that their input can also come in. So, it’s two-way communication with the societies, communities, people with expertise and with people opening up.
Najma Minhas: So, you represent a changing Baluchistan?
Jam Kamal Khan: There is one note I would want to end on – this is the story we want to tell the world now – that it is a changing Pakistan. The future of Pakistan is now coming in the hands of right people and we are very much optimistic about the new generation coming in; they are more vibrant, they are watching things very closely and they are making us accountable.
As a politician, I think that is the true sense that can really take up Pakistan high; it’s the social accountability, no system can change anything. The people of that nation can change the system and the governments, and if the people are willing to change the governments, that is the true sense of change.
And that is what is happening in Pakistan through social media, through electronic media, and through youth mobilization. There is a lot of opportunity for the business community, Pakistan is a great country to invest in. I have seen people coming in too, hydrocarbon industry, pharmaceutical companies, other foreign companies etc.
They have been functioning in Pakistan for the last many years and we have not seen them wrap up – some have because of the global decisions that companies make – but we have seen these companies expanding. There is a good potential in the upcoming corporate sector in Pakistan like we have Gwadar, CPEC, other venues like agriculture, mining, gas, and oil etc.
Bringing in technology, bringing the right people to work in different sectors and explore what Pakistan has to offer. So, it is a market of a lot of potentials and its strategic location makes it very good to access many global regions. I think it is a very good time to come here, explore all these venues, see what Pakistan and Baluchistan can offer.