Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa made an important speech at the passing out parade of new Frontier Corps recruits in Quetta. He expressed solidarity with the Baloch people and also said that the military was committed to completing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which would usher in a new era of development in the province. He appreciated the grit of the honourable people now joining law enforcement agencies of Balochistan; who have shunned anti-state elements at work and embraced the true spirit of patriotism.

This is all true, but there is so much that is often not said in official speeches. Balochistan is an integral part of Pakistan and its people have suffered far too long due to the conflict. Its abundant natural resources have always had the potential to transform Balochistan, yet progress has been disappointing. A huge reserve of oil and gas has recently been found in the Jandran area of Marri Agency of Balochistan, said to be much bigger than gas reserves found in Sui Dera Bugti in early 1950. In order for Balochistan and for the country to benefit from these resources, the Baloch people must join hands with the government to make CPEC a reality. On the other hand, the government must fulfil its promises to the Baloch people, and not be an extractive neo-colonial force. It will take monumental effort to bridge the deep level of mistrust between the Balochi people and figures of authority.

The construction of highways and the deep-sea port of Gwadar in Balochistan are major components of the project, which has been targeted by anti-state elements, and right now, this problem is where the focus of the state lies. But the province cannot be just a road that stretches to the sea. Where are the plans for schools, hospitals, housing and jobs in Balochistan? Balochistan has been reduced to two words, “militancy” and “Gwadar”, and its people keep becoming invisible. If Balochistan has to shine as the province that cradles the CPEC, it must be treated as such.