“The foremost important thing is how we can make sure that we secure the whole mechanism which exists in Balochistan. Security is not only just keeping people with arms and few police stations and FC (Frontier Constabulary) and many other forces; the real security is when the people of that area have a kind of faith within the state and with the government. We need the tools that can support the local people to make sure that things are going fine.”
Dr. Pirzada: You are the Chief Minister of Balochistan for more than two and a half years; Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest province in terms of area but the smallest in terms of population. How do you see the challenges of this province?
Jam Kamal Khan: As you said it yourself, Balochistan is the biggest province in its landmass and the smallest in terms of its population. And with this, I would like to add one more thing; it is one of the most deprived in socio-economic development. I’ve been here for a very long time. My father, grandfather, and other family members were born in Quetta. So, we all were quite acquainted with what Balochistan is all about. But after coming into the government definitely, the perspective has changed a lot – especially after looking at Balochistan from a governance point of view. I see it very differently now.
The far most important thing I’ve come across is that Balochistan is not well connected with the whole nation, whether it’s socially or in terms of trade or other such challenges, which has alienated the province in many ways. On top of that, governance has become one key factor that has erupted within the last two decades in Balochistan. Governance is not very well embedded in many parts of Balochistan due to it being so huge. So the services and delivery, which people want from the government or a state, has not gone to them. So, since the first day I took an oath and after I was there for a few months, I observed that Balochistan is suffering from an administrative governance issue that has not been addressed properly. Because of this lack of governance, many other challenges have emerged over the last 30-40 years.
Dr. Pirzada: Could one of the reasons, which is not understood across Pakistan and the world, is that you have such a large landmass which is almost 40% of Pakistan’s geographical landmass, but your population is hardly 10 million, and in 1947-48, at the time of the independence, Balochistan had the same landmass, but the population was less than 500,000. One of the crucial problems in governance is that you couldn’t have easy connectivity between the scattered people and their resources.
Jam Kamal Khan: We always talk about how Islamabad is the epicenter of all administrative politics and many other things all across Pakistan. The same applies to Quetta as the capital of Balochistan. So, most governments that have come in have restricted themselves by spending most of their time in Quetta or Islamabad, having very little chance of really knowing Balochistan. Yes, they know Balochistan. Every person belonging to Balochistan knows what Baloch is, what Balochistan is, our culture, how we associate, and what our cultural habits are. We all know that, but do we know what issues an area is facing? What does it need? This is never really understood because nobody approached those areas.
Any government that came in had a very short tenure. There were many political changes to be made within those systems for which they did not have much time and hence could not explore and understand the real issues, apart from knowing them because they were Baloch. Also, now technology has paved the way for better communication Now we have WhatsApp, Instagram, and Twitter – electronic media has spread out, and people can communicate. Imagine twenty-thirty years back when there was nothing like that.
We are still facing that challenge in Balochistan; despite having all these tools, there are many gaps between the rural areas of Balochistan and the governing part, where we are doing the decision making. Maybe most people did not understand because they were not aware of what’s happening in Balochistan. On top of that, even if they wanted to do something, they did not know exactly what to do. So, they took a very basic form of governance; a few development projects, a few jobs, some accountability and monitoring, and that’s it. Whatever was the ground, the reality was not known. And that created an issue within Balochistan governance.
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Dr. Pirzada: Most people who are listening to you right now and watch this video will have this feeling that you are perhaps one of the most articulate chief ministers in Pakistan at the moment and perhaps in Pakistan’s history. And you are not from the traditional tribal ruling elite of Balochistan also. So, in the last two and a half plus years, what has your government, with you at the helm of affairs, done to improve these issues of governance, alienation, miscommunication, and integration?
Jam Kamal Khan: Thank you very much for those really sweet compliments. I am sure many people have much more educational background as compared to mine and also experience. But I must say, the key thing which comes to governance delivery, even to a politician or to any management CEO or anybody else, is how you bring in all your expertise, your knowledge, what you see, how you can manage it in terms of your management skills, and try to deliver what is needed.
In Pakistan, we have mostly coalition governments except for a few provinces. Punjab or sometimes in the federal government, we have seen they have not really needed a coalition government, so they implemented policies much better than those in KPK and Balochistan. Balochistan has a very small political parliamentary setup at the provincial and federal levels. We have only 13 to 14 seats in the federation. So whoever came as a chief minister did not have the time and the space to do something good for the province. Our majority of members have come from rural parts, which are quite isolated.
The minimum number of votes an MPA has got is 500, and the maximum number reached is not more than 15,000-20,000, except for a few areas like the southern part and the Nasirabad division, which might have gone up to 30,000+. So, if the number of people voting [for an MPA] is not more than 2,000 to 3,000 people, even when there are more people in that same constituency, maybe more than one lakh, so this is hardly 3% of the population. And being in a poor political setup, it’s very easy to articulate your skills and your mechanism of political maneuverability as to how to catch these 3,000-4,000 people so that you can become an MPA very easily, so the focus has been really on those 4,000 or 5,000 people.
Hence, as a minister, chief minister, or an MPA, what they did in government was to always focus on those 4,000-5,000 people who you can call their hardcore supporters or people in their close circle. They did not bother doing much for the whole constituency because they knew their constituency is just the 4,000 to 5,000 people who have elected them.
Dr. Pirzada: Brilliantly explained Jam Sahab! But what initiatives are you taking to break the trend and to improve?
Jam Kamal Khan: For me, there were two components that were very important when I became the chief minister; one is the development of Balochistan, and second that the development has to have a governance methodology that can translate into benefits to the people. The first thing we undertook, taking around six months, was to study the whole development package. For example, what is happening? Where are the 70-80 billion rupees annually going? Is it going in health, education, or somewhere else? By which mechanism? Is it going by demand? Or is it suggested by a few people? What is the ground reality? Is it needed over there?
So, we got across the board input from those areas; the road sector, the water sector, and many other things, and we came across the fact that nearly 150 to 200 billion rupees worth of projects are just lying in the provincial PSDP (Public Sector Development Programme), which have no use and has been put into it for many other reasons. Then we came to know how this had been spent in the last 20 to 30 years.
I came to understand that it was just six to seven people who were controlling this whole development package. First was the chief minister, possessing the real power of the entire province, so it was seen that the majority of the share goes to the chief minister’s district. And then you have the planning minister who was the second tier, controlling the whole planning [of development package].
Another maybe 20-30% is going to him, and the remainder to perhaps another two to three favorite cabinet members. So, 60% of the whole development was just going into four districts. We cut that down. Also, the opposition parties were not getting a single penny because they were not in the government, even though all those constituencies may have had people who voted for the government. So, what we did was that we said: Whether it is the chief minister or minister’s province, opposition, or the government, each district will get an equal kind of representation in terms of funds distribution. And for that purpose, we made different categorizations.
For health, we are going to be giving this based on the land and population of an area. Whether it’s our government’s MPA or an opposition MPA, the area will get the nomination of the schemes that come in. Categorizations were made to determine how many schools, hospitals, roads, dams, sports (facilities), and many other things we need in an area – to ensure a balanced distribution of funds throughout Balochistan.
Dr. Pirzada: What are some of the key projects currently running in Balochistan, whether they were initiated by your government or previously?
Jam Kamal Khan: people just ask me to focus on two or three things, to which I reply, “fine, I can focus on two-three things: education and health”, but how would you get health and education if there’s no road? How would you make sure if a health facility is going to work if there’s no electricity? How will we make sure if the institute and university are running fine if the local area does not have jobs or businesses for the graduates coming out? Therefore, we characterized things into like fifteen sectors.
I came to know how much (investment) we were giving to each department. For example, the women representation was zero, sports was zero, and socio-economic had zero. There are many other things; roads were made, which were not there, and those made were of such low quality within the PC1 that one could really understand that this road will be of no use in two to three years. Hence, we affirmed that since connectivity is very important – so let’s make huge roads, medium roads, and roads needed within towns and districts’ limits.
We then came to know there are many districts that have colleges, degree colleges, polytechnics, residential colleges, and university campuses, but there are also many districts that do not have anything. Therefore, we decided to find those so that we could meet their needs first, and also; we realized we have to improve the quality of the ones which already have the existing higher education.
The fund which the provincial government used to give to higher education was only Rs. 50 million. We increased that to Rs. 200 million to assist the universities within Balochistan which can improve the quality and better facilitate the infrastructure. The coast is one of the key areas but was never touched in Balochistan, be it for fisheries, industries, tourism, or from any other perspective. We are creating opportunities for that through a master plan. Resorts are being built, tourism happening, and many other facilities related to the fishing sector.
Dr. Pirzada: Jam Sahab, just a quick intervention; in terms of integration, let me ask two questions. First is in terms of health; the Islamabad government has started giving the comprehensive health care card in KP, in the center, federal areas, and also in Punjab. Is your government also going to give this comprehensive health card by the end of this year or next year?
Jam Kamal Khan: We are planning universal health care, which is going to be for everyone. And we have already initiated that program. While I’m talking to you, the secretary of health is already visiting Punjab, KP, and Sindh. We are trying to get what best we can do with a health card. Some of the health card components are already working, but inshallah, we are planning a universal health card, which is slightly different from what is happening in the rest of Pakistan.
Dr. Pirzada: How will this be different from the other health cards?
Jam Kamal Khan: The health card, as suggested in other areas, is going to be utilized by an individual as more of a kind of a debit card to certain hospitals. What we are trying to do is see whether this health card can have more to it. Fine, it can be used as a health card, but it should be able to be used as any other socio-economic card, so whether there’s a family who needs anything else, whether a guy needs it for his education or a family needs it for education, whether there’s a government employee that needs health insurance. This should not exactly be limited to a health card; it should have multipronged advantages that can be used by that individual or that family or that segment of the society facing terrorism or have Shaheeds.
Dr. Pirzada: Tell me something in terms of integration. For instance, when we read about the CPEC projects, and that there is a proper road network like Makran coastal highway, which plays an important role in terms of integrating, so, what are the road projects and how has this Makran coastal highway and CPEC contributed to your integration across the province?
Jam Kamal Khan: It’s very interesting. Whenever I speak to journalists regarding what CPEC has given to Balochistan, it’s very sad to see how the past governments did not address Balochistan in terms of CPEC. When I became the chief minister, one of the first few things I addressed was to ask about CPEC in Balochistan and was told that there were no ongoing projects of CPEC in Balochistan.
So, I was quite surprised and said, what do you mean? So, I enquired what do you mean like nothing is happening, any roads? They said nothing. I asked about socio-economic projects; again, they said nothing. Industrial areas? Nothing. Border markets? Nothing. Any hospital? Any academies? Nothing. There were only two projects, which were happening in Balochistan, and those were private sector and state sector work.
One was the integration and the uplift of whatever is happening in the Gwadar port, which is needed for the whole country and not only for Balochistan. The second project, which was happening, was the HUBCO power, which again is the transmission of power supply going into the main transmission, and not limited to Balochistan. And then there were only a few other small components, which were happening; the uplift of a small hospital in Gwadar and one school.
So I was very surprised. Even though they were two more projects, which were very interesting, they were not CPEC funded projects. They were loan-based, early harvest CPEC projects but dependent on the commercial loan, which the government of Balochistan was willing to take. One, they were bringing a Pat feeder water supply to Quetta so that they can fulfill the need for Quetta water supply, and the second was making a fast train facility within Quetta city. So, that was costing close to 130-140 billion rupees.
Bringing the pat feeder to the Quetta means making it climb close to 4,000-5,000 feet, and then bringing the Indus water, which is so contaminated and building more than 16 pumping houses, was clearly going to be a total failure. And the second, mass transit is a very expensive proposal; I saw both these schemes as a failure. And on top of that, as a government, we would have been paying their interest and everything, so we shut them down.
Dr. Pirzada: So have you been able to change this sad situation?
Jam Kamal Khan: What happened was that I consulted the federal government and said fine, the CPEC infrastructure phase has gone. Now anything that is happening and related to CPEC would be business-oriented, business to business, business to people. I asked them if we are left with no infrastructure, then how are the people connected to CPEC going to come and invest in Balochistan? It was good enough for Khan Sahab [Prime Minister Imran Khan]. So, he took a very good initiative initially, and Khusru Bakhtiar was the planning minister then, and now we have Asad Umar.
So, from the first year, the prime minister announced we would take up all those projects which are of roads in Balochistan in our federal PSDP, and that’s how the start took place. The CPEC western route, which was inaugurated by the last prime minister and Fazl Ur Rehman, and many other people, was never executed for the last five years.
Dr. Pirzada: You said the prime minister inaugurated, but it was never executed? Why?
Jam Kamal Khan: Yes. So the key here is that there was a function, you know, the one where they cut ribbons, but when we came into government, we were told that this project was not even approved by the CDWP.
If the Central Development Working Party (CDWP) did not even approve it yet, so how could it be possible that they went and did an inauguration? So then its technical improvement was made by the federal government, the amounts were reallocated, the fund was increased, and Alhamdulillah it was substantial, and the work has been started.
Dr. Pirzada: This is very intriguing because, in October, the Global Village Space published a special edition on CPEC, and we contacted the Balochistan government, the Board of Investment, and we got a list of several projects related to CPEC that are making progress in Balochistan.
Jam Kamal Khan: Again, I would reiterate it like CPEC had a financial proposal of close to $55 billion. That was all project-oriented; therefore, we never saw or didn’t see any project associated with that. If the federal government is associating it with the federal PSDP, then that’s totally different.
Yes, all these projects were proposed for the CPEC, but they never became a part of the CPEC. So, what the incumbent federal government did is say, fine, we have missed the CPEC opportunity, which the previous government did, now we will make these projects as part of our federally funded projects to cover up the whole vacuum which was created because CPEC has no more such money, which can cater to new projects.
Dr. Pirzada: Where do we stand in terms of the major projects now? What is the given name of three-four major projects you know on which the government is working, which you think will help integrate Balochistan?
Jam Kamal Khan: We have four to five very important projects underway. One, which was always – I’ll quote in Urdu – “the Maghrabi route”. The Western road was very popular and was very important for Balochistan, which was never executed, but this government has started it. It will come from Zhob, Dera Ismail Khan, Zhob, Zhob to Quetta, and it’s going to be the first dual carriage road for Balochistan ever.
The second main project, which this government has started and we had really pushed as a coalition partner is the Winder dam which again is in the southern part of Balochistan. That was also inaugurated 15 years ago by Asif Ali Zardari but never executed. This time around, the work has started on the ground.
The third most important project which is underway and it’s at the feasibility and final study level is the main line of connectivity from Chaman to Karachi, which nowadays is being stated as the killer road as a lot of deaths are happening on this road just because it’s a single road. Therefore, the feasibility is in the process to make it a dual carriageway all through the way that the federal government has approved, Hoshab to Awaran, and a few other significant projects.
One of the biggest dams that are going to be built in Balochistan is the Naulang dam in Khusdar and Jhal Magsi. It is going to become the biggest dam of Balochistan, InshaAllah, and has been approved. It is loan-based, but there is a guarantee by the federal and Balochistan government, respectively; and it shall be going forward soon into a tendering process.
The fifth important thing which was always neglected in Gwadar was that the people of Gwadar always said the CPEC has brought in a port only, and there is nothing else for us. So, one of the biggest demands was having eastern road access for the fishermen. It was a huge project and, again, is being executed by the federal government.
The five million gallons desalination plant is also underway. It had some complexities, but that will be coming for the people of Gwadar again. A lot of small other infrastructure roads, which are happening in the PSDP, include the western bypass route of Quetta. This is kind of going to be a ring road for connecting Kuchlak to the Mustang side; that’s going to be a great relief for the people of Quetta also. Similarly, there are numerous small dams and other projects which are underway at the same time.
Dr. Pirzada: Any possibility of a rail linkage between Gwadar and Karachi? Is your government taking up the issue with the federal government?
Jam Kamal Khan: That’s one of my keen interests nowadays that how can we connect the southern part of Balochistan with Karachi. And I think that it will be a game-changer for CPEC, for the coastal area of Balochistan, and for really taking Gwadar to a success.
Dr. Pirzada: Taking this opportunity, what would be the other areas in which you would like the federal government to help Balochistan improve its development by enhancing its connectivity and integration?
Jam Kamal Khan: Recently, the prime minister came to Turbat. I guess one other prime minister had come to Turbat in the past, but very few did an open gathering with people or addressed them.
PM Imran Khan came, and he announced a package of 600 billion rupees worth of projects for the south of Balochistan, which includes three major divisions, which are Kalat Division, Rakhshan Division, and Makran Division.
These areas have been deprived for the last many years, and that package includes a lot of things; a lot of road segments that will connect these districts. As I said, 70% of the landmass of Balochistan lies in these three divisions, and the rest of Balochistan is only 30% of the landmass.
Hence, the package is quite extensive. It has health, education, socio-economic, agriculture, road connectivity, and a few other segments, which will address that area’s needs.
Dr. Pirzada: As you pointed out in this discussion that the federal government makes many announcements and inaugurations, but things do not get executed. Is this particular package by the prime minister making any progress?
Jam Kamal Khan: Since mutually the government of Balochistan is doing it, now the estimates, especially the PC1’s and the proposals, will be done by us. We have nearly completed all those, and we are forwarding it to the federal government so that they can approve it and they are going to allocate the funds for it. The work that will come under the purview of NHA and others is already doing their job.
The prime minister decided that a committee should be constituted to monitor this, and the committee should be given to the government of Balochistan; therefore, I am heading that committee with all the stakeholders on board, and we review the progress every fortnightly.
There’s another very interesting thing which the Planning Commission and the [federal] government has done recently, and that is that any amount, which is allocated for Balochistan, even if the government of Balochistan does not utilize it, shall not be reallocated to any other province or any other project. This has been done for the first time by the Government of Pakistan, which will secure our funding for such projects, and I think it’s a very good start. They have already begun it.
Dr. Pirzada: It’s understandable that economic development, integration, and all these issues are critical in terms of pacifying a relatively disturbing politics of Balochistan, but if I come straight to the political challenges in Balochistan, this one province, your province, has seen several waves of insurgency since 1948. You are a man of pacification; where do we stand in terms of the insurgencies? And what is your government doing in terms of bringing the alienated factions into the mainstream?
Jam Kamal Khan: If you compare it globally, insurgencies happening in Balochistan are quite different. The first insurgency, which took place in Balochistan, was maybe 60-70 years back. You can imagine how big Balochistan is. Yet, any news saying that there are a few rebels or a few people in the mountains gets international and national media attention.
The recent insurgency, which took place in Balochistan after 2006-7, expanded quite a lot in intensity within the province, and we saw things deteriorating; the law-and-order situation was really compromised. However, in the last 10-15 years, I think a lot of work has been done, and we know those insurgencies were not something that just started.
Yes, there was a segment of the society emotionally with them; it was made to be with them for this whole situation for a few years. However, in a few years’ time, we saw it depleting day by day. So, the central myth, which the insurgents had, was that Balochistan had always been deprived, it doesn’t have a proper infrastructure, it doesn’t have schools, water, roads, or anything else.
So, a bigger segment of the society, which was not facilitated by all these facilities, emotionally got a linkage from this argument, whilst not realizing this whole insurgency had a different reason to be brought up. Initially, the main cause was that we would be your voice, and we will take it to the various platforms, and we will solve all these issues.
Dr. Pirzada: Taking the opportunity that I’m talking to someone who is as aware of Balochistan’s history and has a grip on the subject, hearing you out, are you suggesting that different insurgencies, for instance, the 1970’s insurgency was different in terms of character from the insurgency that broke out in 2006, and the causes were not similar to each other?
Jam Kamal Khan: Majorly, I think the recent insurgency which we have seen is more linked towards financial things and to agencies and countries which have interests in Pakistan, how they wanted to see a very disturbed Balochistan, keeping Kashmir in mind and keeping other factors in mind, and how things were being done in Afghanistan, what repercussions the recent 9/11 had and so on.
So this was more articulated, this was more orchestrated, more implanted, and a lot of funding was given and which is very open news now in the international media, where we have seen the Indian government stakeholders, think tanks, intelligent heads openly saying it, that we will do anything to disturb Balochistan; whether we can do it directly or indirectly with money, with anything, so that is an obvious sign of how things were disturbed in Balochistan.
But, as I said, things have improved on a drastic level from how it started and where it is right now. Now the people have realized that they were misused. We have seen many people who showed their intentions were not to really harm the state or anything else, but they were misguided. They came back into the fold; they became part of the governments, became part of the political campaigns, and became part of the normal society, and if you see it right now, Alhamdulillah, it has declined a lot.
It shows the strength and love the people of Balochistan have for Pakistan, their own country. I would quote a very senior officer who was quite known to me, and he said, I must say the biggest patriots that I’ve ever seen are the people of Balochistan.
Dr. Pirzada: We are aware of the fact that as you refer to as well, with more than one regional country and certain international powers don’t want Balochistan to move on in the direction of economic development, so a lot of effort is directed in disrupting the potential development of Balochistan coastal network. On the other hand, I also read that Balochistan’s coastal areas can develop into a blue ocean economy. What are the risks, and what can be done to develop the Balochistan coastal area towards a blue ocean economy?
Jam Kamal Khan: The foremost important thing is how we can make sure that we secure the whole mechanism which exists in Balochistan. Security is not only just keeping people with arms and few police stations and FC (Frontier Constabulary) and many other forces; the real security is when the people of that area have a kind of faith within the state and with the government.
We need the tools that can support the local people to make sure that things are going fine. As I said earlier, the coast of Balochistan also has massive potential in many ways; tourism, marine life, exploring, being a sports city, future investments in renewable wind energy, oil cities, and many other things.
The biggest economies globally all have ports. So both cities are going to be the key factors of really developing any province or any country. We have seen that in Karachi also; we have seen it in Singapore, Shenzhen, and many other places. So, the coast plays a big role, but if the coast does not have a plan, if it does not have an infrastructure, it is of no use if it does not have anything that can attract investment.
I am surprised to see what the last 20-30 governments have been doing; we have initiated small things, which did not really require a lot of budgeting. For the first time in the history of Balochistan, we are putting up basic public service policing stations and levy stations on the whole coast of 700 kilometers; there are currently only four or five posts, so if somebody has an issue, they don’t have any access to any security for 450 kilometers, they don’t have any access to any security.
Secondly, if you visit the coast, there’s no place we can you can even rest. So what’s the cost which the government would have incurred for making like hardly 10 to 15 such points on the highway, which can facilitate a commuter, a local person, tourist or anybody else? The whole coast is not adequately connected with any service or utility like electricity and even the road infrastructure, besides the coastal highway, which the Musharraf government did, which has been a great thing for the Balochistan coast. And I’m sure people are going to remember that for upcoming times.
Dr. Pirzada: Are you referring toward the Makran Coastal Highway?
Jam Kamal Khan: I would instead call it Balochistan coastal highway because it has two main districts, which are the Lasbela and Gwadar itself. And the fourth most important thing is that more than six-seven jetties were made for the fishing community.
All failed because they were not properly planned by consultants who knew marine life, marine methodology, how the sea/ ocean works, how the salination works. They simply made ponds that are totally filled with sand at the moment. Many of these desalination plants were initiated, fishing plants were initiated, the main concept was just to tender work, give it to anybody, get your share done, and whether it works or not, that wasn’t the concern.
So if you see the whole coast, no major cities were developed, and those cities that were there did not have the proper infrastructure. So, we’re trying to give the city a proper infrastructure [and cater to their] water, basic living needs, schools, and police stations; for the first time, we are making a master plan for the whole coast.
Dr. Pirzada: So it is, the government has created a new ministry, the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, headed by Ali Zaidi. Is there cooperation going on between the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and the Balochistan government?
Jam Kamal Khan: At the moment, it’s limited to the port services. I think that’s one thing, which is very important if the Maritime Ministry focuses more on how they can bring the Gwadar port as an economical port, as a commercial port. Having the deepest port will not solve your issue; the port has to be an import and export port.
So fine, if we are going to bring a lot of stuff over there, what will we export from Gwadar? And trust me, if that thing is not solved, Gwadar port might not become a success, so we need to see how we can make it a commercially viable port that can really work, exist, and people can benefit from it.
Dr. Pirzada: Very important words, but you keep on meeting the prime minister, military hierarchy, Chinese ambassador. Have you impressed upon them this point?
Jam Kamal Khan: Yes, because the most important thing, which I must say, kind of this government has not addressed also is the power supply chain to Gwadar. So there is no power supply mechanism coming into Gwadar at the moment, the only power chain that is coming in from Iran, and it’s a very limited megawatt supply, catering to the western part of Balochistan in terms of normal households.
So, if we are planning of bringing special economic zones, which will attract a lot of industries, this needs to be addressed. There was a project initiated in the last government, though it was not an ideal project because it was related to coal; that was the only option left at that moment, not having a national grid of 300 megawatts, which is still pending. There are some issues to that; obviously, the environmental factor is one of the biggest.
Dr. Pirzada: What is the solution in your mind, which the federal government needs to work for power for Gwadar?
Jam Kamal Khan: Anything at the quickest time is connecting the national grid to Balochistan, for which the project is underway, but it’s going to take another two years’ time. It will be connecting Balochistan with the national grid, and then on the dealing system, Balochistan can get any power from any other province also.
I’m seeing it as the quickest solution because the power project of coal or any other project is going to take another two-three years time or like done in the past on Port Qasim, maybe an off-shore LNG supply mechanism on a ship or something which can produce power and be rented out for like one and a half two years’ time so that it can facilitate the industry while the main power supply project can take its place.
Dr. Pirzada: Very informative discussion with you, Jam Saab. One or two quick political questions the Global Village Space had the privilege of interviewing you in Davos, in World Economic Forum in Switzerland, two years ago, and you were confident that the missing person issue is not such a significant issue as the international media believe it. But recently, in the last couple of days, once again, there has been a demonstration in Islamabad about the missing persons issue. How big is the issue for your government, and what is your government doing to settle this?
Jam Kamal Khan: Moeed Sahab, I exactly recall, I was asked this question at that time, and for me, the most important thing at that time, and still is, are the people of Balochistan. I will put it as I said even then, the Naraz Baloch. So I would say the Naraz Baloch are those people who are in Balochistan who don’t have anything, no job, no socio-economic opportunities, no school, or anything. So I’m addressing them.
And these are the same Baloch people, because of some reason had gone into the hands of wrong people. And today, we call them missing because there’s still data, which is not very authentic. But I’m not declining the fact that that it’s not a fact. And it’s still there because, during the last 15 years of war, a war took place between insurgents and the state and the authorities. And once you have that kind of situation, obviously, there are such situations which are not accounted for or even known about.
Far-flung areas where people are being killed for the last 10-15 years, ten army people being killed, 20 ladies being killed, doctors being killed. So what was the mechanism to counter that? Because that was a fight going on between forces, insurgents who were being equipped, who have been funded, and so many other things.
So the state was responding. And during all this, a lot of things have happened. Many people have died, from civilians, from the forces, from local administration; even civilians who had nothing to do with it became part of that conflict. And a lot of people lost their lives, even in Quetta and in many other parts. So the missing button at this point, if you compare it to the last ten years from 2008 to 2020 and these two and a half years, I quoted one of the tweets, which Madam Maryam Nawaz did and a few other people I still find condoling with these people, as yes, we are sympathetic; every party is going to them. But what did we do in those ten years? The biggest missing persons episode that took place was from 2008 and 2018.
However, most people who came back after being missing and met with their families were during this government. Why is this government being blamed for something that it did not do and assisted the affected families. And a lot of people were relieved, and they came back. There’s another very important thing that we see in missing persons [case] is that the numbers, identification, and many other things are, to some extent, not very authentic. For example, we call somebody a missing person, but nobody knows whether the person is somewhere else.
Dr. Pirzada: Why is your government not attempting to publish a certain kind of white paper on the issue of missing persons because within the region and outside Pakistan, it is believed that countless thousands of people are missing, and the government keeps on emphasizing that there is a data discrepancy as you also explained. So why doesn’t your government take any initiative to publish a white paper on that?
Jam Kamal Khan: In the last two to three years, we saw that the only authentic platform which was working on missing persons was Mama Qadeer in Quetta. And that was the only camp, which lasted for a very long time. And they were the only people who had authentic lists to some extent, as compared to when Akhter Mengal comes on media or national party comes in or any other person comes in, and they show the figures in thousands and millions.
Mama Qadeer was one person with whom we interacted initially, and we came to an understanding; and for the first time, he lifted his camp after a very long time. And those were closest to the numbers, which I think were in discussion between him, few other associates, and the government. And then there was the work, which was done on that behalf. And if you open the social media, which belongs to the BNP Mengal, there have been many people who have come back, and they have owned them. For me, it’s very surprising that all these nationalist parties claim credit for whatever the authorities and the government is doing to ensure families’ reunion.
So, on one side, they are blaming the government, but on the other side, they are claiming the benefits of this whole progress also. So, what I would say is: Yes, there are certain issues, but they go to the very individuals also. So the missing persons, even, maybe like five years, ten years this whole issue is solved, and they are still like two or three missing persons, they will still come and sit in Islamabad, they will still come and sit in Quetta. So, this is something which can go on for a very long time because we even don’t know where exactly that missing person is.
Dr. Pirzada: Another very painful issue, which your government has inherited, is the sectarian conflict across Balochistan. Once again, a few weeks ago, the Hazara community miners were attacked, or there was a terrorist attack against them. You know, what precautions and forward measure is your government now taking so that such tragedies don’t take place?
Jam Kamal Khan: For me, the most critical factor when it comes to security is how much prepared a government is to encounter such things. Are we equipped? Do we have the right mechanism? Is our human resource of security authorities to that level that they can combat, apprehend and foresee something which is coming for the province or for any particular community, which is Hazara or anybody else or sectarian.
So after coming into the government, we took a very holistic approach. There’s a Levies force and a police force in Balochistan. So the levies force has always been a point of controversy and political gain in Balochistan, where many political people, as far as the Levies say they are the force, which should remain, and police should not.
They should be limited to the towns. But what I came across was that nothing was done even for the Levies; the Levies sapahi was still a sapahi without any infrastructure, without any facilitation, they didn’t have a cadre; they only had one subedar and one sapahi. So we brought up a package of close to eight and a half billion rupees.
We started that in 2018. And we have brought Levies to a level which now is a totally different Levies from what they were three years back. Similarly, we have been improving the police infrastructure in terms of human resources, equipping them. For the first time, the CTD (Counter-Terrorism Department) has been widely spread in Balochistan in 33 districts.
Dr. Pirzada: But it sounds like a very generalized law and order improvement. What about specifically protecting a targeted community like the Hazara?
Jam Kamal Khan: So during this whole phase of time, there have been many operations that the civil government and the security authorities have taken in two years’ time. Identifying such people and organizations, which were the main core of doing these target killings, and such incidences and there have been a lot of accomplishments. In all these affairs, a lot of people have been brought to justice. And that’s why you see the current Balochistan is very different from what it used to be five-six years back.
I’m not saying like everything has come down. But in 2019, we had a single incident; in 2020, nothing happened. And recently, a very unfortunate incident occurred basically in Mach, which was something of a different kind. We saw that the collaboration [of different government departments] to address the [grievances of the] Hazara community over there was orchestrated in a very different manner. And Hazaras accepting this facility for working shows the confidence in the last two and a half years. They had seen how improved the government mechanism had become; Alhamdulillah, things are very much better, we are putting up many things that can counter those things.
So, I will come back to the first point where I started; any situation, any security issue, it’s related to the security apparatus. So, if your mechanisms are not well placed, then it can do anything. It can go sectarian, individual, commercial, or to the extent of a blast, targeted killing or even theft, and many other things. But as we improve the mechanism, we restrict and filter out many things that can be of a very devastating nature and magnitude.