Balochistan; Moving forward

Balochistan constitutes 43.6% of the total area of Pakistan. It is bounded in the West by Iran and North by Afghanistan. In the East are the provinces of Sindh, Punjab and to the North East, KP. In the South it has a 760 kilometers-long coast line along the Arabian Sea. The administration of the province is divided into A and B areas which are under police and levies control.

The people of Balochistan actively participated in Pakistan’s freedom struggle. It was made a province on July 1, 1970 and is important because of many factors; its geostrategic location, Gwadar at the western coast and its proximity to the opening of Strait of Hormuz through which 40% oil passes. It also has huge quantities of minerals, natural gas and unexplored oil reserves. This enables it to make up 40 percent of national energy reserves in the form of gas, coal and electricity. It also provides access to a landlocked Afghanistan. The start of CPEC has brought international players into the province as well, making it all the more valuable.

The issue of the state of Kalat joining Pakistan gave rise to sub-nationalists which led to insurgency. Another factor which led to insurgency was the dissolution of Balochistan’s assembly, imposition of the martial law and the abolishment of the sardari system in 1976. The former USSR tried to influence the people of the province and welcomed dissidents to the USSR for education and subsequently brain washed them. Development in the province was taken as threat by some sardars to their authority and they exploited the issues of natural resources and demanded royalty. Balochistan has since been the focus of foreign intervention due to its geo-strategic location and some foreign powers are not happy with the developments taking place.

In the past Afghanistan had been raising the issue of the ‘Durand Line’. Afghanistan actively supported all the insurgencies with funds, weapons and shelter. Indian influence increased after the fall of the Taliban, as India started sponsoring terrorist outfits like BLA, BRA, BLF, TTP and JuH. It also fueled insurgencies from the consulates of Kandahar and Herat. The arrest of Kulbhushan from Balochistan confirmed Indian involvement in terrorist activities in the province.

India is not happy with the development of the Gwadar port by China which they consider a threat to the Indian Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC). The objective with other foreign powers is to disturb the development of the Gwadar port and CPEC. With the recent development in Afghanistan, the people of Pakistan are happy as this has eliminated Indian influence in Afghanistan. There will be no more terrorist bases for BLA, BLF and TTP. The western border is more secured now with the completion of border fencing.

Today Balochistan remains the top priority province for development by the federal government. Some of the important projects completed and in progress are the Gwadar port, Mirani Dam, Coastal Highway, Saindak Copper and Gold Project, Reko Diq Copper and Gold Project, Kachhi Canal, Hoshab-Awaran Road, Baseema-Khuzdar Road, and basic civic amenities including education health, electricity and communication.

Pakistan’s Armed Forces in particular are making tremendous contributions to the province through the construction of roads, education facilities, medical facilities through CMHs and water supply schemes. The youth of Balochistan are being provided with hostel facilities across Pakistan to get enrolled in prestigious institutions of the country. They are also joining the army in large numbers. Their representation is now over 4 percent. Nearly 30,000 are serving in the army. In 2019, Midshipman Naveed Zehri from Khuzdar became the first cadet from Balochistan to receive the coveted ‘Sword of Honour’ at the Pakistan Naval Academy (PNA).

The sacrifices of the people of Balochistan have paved the way for better security in the province. Pakistan’s army is a playing pivotal role for ensuring peace in Balochistan and has undertaken all possible efforts towards the achievement of enduring peace for sustainable socio-economic development of Balochistan.

The writer is a retired brigadier and freelance columnist.

Develop-ment in the province was taken as threat by some sardars to their author-ity…

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