The first international exhibition showcasing Gawadar port as global business hub should hold all the potentials to change the lives of the Baloch people for good. The Chinese envoy, like all others before him, emphasised the real aim of the project, i.e., bringing positive change in all aspects of life for Baloch people.
While hoping that Ahsan Iqbal’s words, who also spoke on the occasion, that ‘Gawadar will revolutionise the life of Baloch people,’ prove true in the days to come, the present scheme of things in the province reflects that the Province was the last subject on state’s priority list all these years. For except for Quetta, the capital city of the province, the basic civil facilities including health, education, clean drinking water in the rest of Balochistan are virtually non-existent.
The information given to the Senate Functional Committee on Problems of Less Developed Areas show that the status of social services in the province is worse than in Somalia and Sudan. Balochistan, which makes one-third of Pakistan’s land, is facing multiple problems. All these issues are proof of government’s negligence. All public sectors are in bad conditions, from health to education, from law and order to provision of clean drinking water. For instance, female mortality rate during childbirth in the province is four times higher than in the rest of the country. The water crisis has escalated to such a level that even Quetta hardly manages water for its population.
As if these are not enough problems that Baloch people are facing. Add to these is the extreme poverty in the province. Almost three-quarters of the population in the minerals-rich province live in abject poverty. The tale of ignoring and exploiting the region is a long one. It’s not only propaganda of nationalist leaders or separatists that the natural resources of Balochistan are utilised in other parts of the country save in Balochistan. The Chief executive Officer of Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) has verified that most of the cities in the province lack this facility. Why wonder if terrorism grows in such conditions under which Baloch people live?
While the present mechanism to root out poverty is failing, the provincial, as well as the federal government, need to come up with a sustainable model of supporting people’s lives. However, it is encouraging to see that Prime Minister of Pakistan, Shahid Khaqan Abbassi, has Balochistan on the top of his priority list. His announced ‘Equalisation Package’ will assist the provincial government in the acceleration of all development projects that are needed to uplift the socio-economic status of the area.