Virus upended lives of poor, says minister

Only 20% people have access to safe drinking water

APP May 08, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Balochistan Minister for Social Welfare and Non Formal Education, Mir Assad Ullah Baloch on Wednesday said the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the lives of the poor people of Balochistan in many ways.

“Following the lockdown, trade activities have come to a halt, casting a large population into penury,” he said, adding that in Balochistan only 250,000 people have government jobs and the rest depend directly or indirectly on cross border-trade.

“Balochistan province, with its 75% of sea shore, makes up around 50% of the land mass of the country, while its population remains only 12.30 million. Its scattered population, poor means of communication, fragile and limited health facilities have further aggravated the situation," Baloch said. “Around 71% of population lives below the poverty line and 80% of the population was deprived of health facilities in Balochistan. Only 20% people in the province have access to safe drinking water as compared to 86%in the rest of the country.”

The minister also said, traffic deaths remain much higher due to unavailability of dual carriage roads. “In the last two decades the share of allocation by the National Highway Authority for the province has remained below 10% of the total allocation. Similarly, the province could not get its due share in external development financing.”

It is pertinent to note that during 2017-18 the country received a whopping amount of Rs.334 billion, while the province got only 1.6% of this amount for development projects.

Baloch went on to say that the geostrategic importance of Balochistan; the deep seaport of Gwadar which has turned the whole dream of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) into a reality still awaits substantial development. “The people in Gwadar and the rest of Balochistan still live in utter poverty and destitute. Similarly, Balochistan was not getting a fair share in federal government jobs. There are more than 500,000 employees in federal autonomous bodies and at least 6% of them should have been from Balochistan.”.

Urging Prime Minister Imran Khan, he said that, “your vision and commitment to build Pakistan a welfare and prosperous state  and your vision of a welfare, egalitarian and just system to ensure peace, justice, rights for deprived people, rule of law, universal health and education facilities for all citizens of the country was certainly a welcoming initiative.”

The provincial minister urged that, this will help usher the country into a new era of prosperity, peace and development. “Keeping in view the hardships suffered by the poor and resource-less people of this province, a generous package of Rs100 billion should be apportioned for Balochistan to support its faltering economy and enable the provincial government cope with the challenges emanating from covid-19.”

There were no industries in the province except in district Lasbela. Besides, the frail private sector in the province is too weak to address the ever-burgeoning unemployment in the province.

The only ray of hope for the masses is government sector to ease their hardships and sufferings.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 8th, 2020.