QUETTA: Despite tall claims made by the Pakistan Peoples Party-led government on development projects in Balochistan, the province still lacks even basic infrastructure, with dilapidated roads and highways indicative of underdevelopment.
Out of 17 projects by the National Highway Authority (NHA) in Balochistan, none have been completed. All the projects were supposed to be finished by 2009. During the 2010-11 financial year, the federal government released merely Rs4.56 billion from a total allocation of Rs11 billion, which has led to extensive delays.
Even the Balochistan chief minister has been unable to convince authorities to ensure swift release of funds, part of which have been allocated to complete the 247-kilometre-long Kalat-Quetta-Chaman Highway, which falls in his electoral constituency. A total of Rs1.2 billion, including Rs440 million in foreign funds, was earmarked but merely Rs309 million has been released.
Balochistan Information Minister Yunus Mullahzai says it would be a major achievement if the Kalat-Quetta-Chaman highway is completed by the end of December.
Funds were also not issued for other road projects; in one, Rs823 million was allocated but the NHA did not release a penny.
The motorway linking Lahore with Rawalpindi was built in eight months at the cost of R35 billion – in Balochistan it would take two decades to construct a 145-kilometer highway, Quetta-based journalist Mohammad Zafar said when asked why Punjab is often blamed in Balochistan for the province’s plight.
“Funds have been diverted to Punjab and Sindh on the directives of the president, prime minister and other influential people,” said President of the National Party (NP) Senator Dr Abdul Malik Baloch, who believes such moves are deepening the sense of deprivation in Balochistan.
Mullazai, the NHA’s focal person in Balochistan, also complained that Balochistan is being neglected. “All the 17 projects are incomplete due to unavailability of funds. It is obvious that the PM or people in key posts give priority to their constituency,” he said.
Malik says that Balochistan’s projects are deliberately being neglected or delayed. “All other provinces – Punjab, Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa – had been issued funds which were more than their allocations,” he claimed, while displaying documents provided by NHA and the government.
According to Malik, Sindh was issued Rs7.28 billion for highway projects while its total allocation was Rs7.09 billion, while Punjab was given 36 schemes and received more than its allocation as well. “This is clear evidence that the cut has only been made to Balochistan’s allocations,” Dr Malik says.
Recently, a Senate Standing Committee on Communications meeting was held in Quetta during which senators from Balochistan, including Humayun Khan Mandokhail and Ismail Buledi, also alleged that funds allocated for Balochistan have been diverted for construction of highways in Multan and Ratodero.
However, Federal Minister for Communications Arbab Alamgir denied that such diversions of funds had happened. Alamgir claimed that the government has allocated Rs32 billion during the current fiscal year, of which Rs9 billion will be spent in Balochistan. He added that this money would be sufficient to complete the ongoing projects in the province.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 7th, 2011.