It may sound grandiose to claim that the Kacchi Canal is a destiny changing project for Balochistan but considering the project’s far-reaching impact Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi may not be far off the mark by describing it as such. Without doubt, the project is important for the whole country on several levels. Firstly, it will help irrigate 72,000 acres of land in Dera Bugti district. Secondly, as the 300-kilometre long canal will be carrying water from Punjab to Balochistan, it will also serve the nobler cause of inter-provincial harmony — an aspiration we can never quite have enough of. But the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz seems to have more goals on its mind: it is hoping to assuage the feelings of deprivation in Balochistan and build on the political goodwill created by the project. This may be a good start but it is hardly sufficient to rid the people of Balochistan of ill feelings pent up over the decades.
The prime minister made an attempt to take responsibility for the injustices suffered by the province in the past. Allusions were made also to the piped supply of gas from Sui to the rest of the country and how the provinces had profited from the supply. The prime minister expressed gratitude to Balochistan on behalf of the whole country.
But Mr Abbasi seems to have lost his way when he appealed to voters to “make the right decision and you will also see the benefits”, somewhat diluting his well-delivered message of inter-provincial harmony with a clear declaration of vested political interest. However, his earnestness in pledging to fulfil the fundamental needs of the people perhaps cannot be questioned. Not many leaders have declared it their responsibility to do so. It would however take some doing to make Balochistan the country’s richest province. We watch with interest.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 15th, 2017.
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