Soon after landing in Quettta on Monday on a two-day visit, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani held meetings with key leaders of his party’s Balochistan chapter in which he once again stressed his government’s commitment to the historically neglected province.
Among the efforts of the government discussed in the meeting held at the Governor House was the Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan package – a wide ranging endeavour unanimously approved by parliament on November 23, 2009.
However, almost two years after the package was announced, many key proposals are yet to materialise.
In Monday’s meeting, the prime minister acknowledged that of the Rs120 billion announced for the province under the head of gas development surcharge and royalty only Rs20 billion had been paid – but he pledged that the remaining Rs100 billion would be paid in 10 installments.
He also touched upon a number of other initiatives the government has taken. The initiatives include representation of Balochistan in the country’s top institutions, including the army. In this regard, the prime minister will be addressing a passing-out parade that will see the induction of 5,000 Baloch youths into the Pakistan Army, which, it is expected, will also be attended by Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
The prime minister highlighted the increased share given to the province in the annual development budget and the divisible pool of funds given to the federating units by the centre – which had gone from 5.1 per cent to 9.09 per cent, translating into an increase of Rs50 billion.
Gilani also announced some new initiatives on the occasion, including the establishing of campuses of Balochistan University of Information Technology at Zhob, Kalat, Noshki, Pishin, Qilla Abdullah and Gwadar districts.
In a briefing given to the prime minister on the implementation of the Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan package and the hiring of Baloch youth in federal departments, it was said that 200 seats of a total of 350 reserved in Pakistan Coast Guards had been allotted besides relaxing the qualification criteria for the province from matriculation to middle.
Besides this, 67 youth from Balochistan had been recruited in Federal Investigation Agency, three in Civil Defence Department, 68 in PWD, 70 in Utility Stores Corporations, seven in Planning and Development Division, 50 in the Anti-Narcotics Force and three in ministry of defence.
Six percent employment quota for Balochistan had been reserved in offices such as the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA).
And now: the reality
In terms of numbers the Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan package has done well so far, with only 27 of 61 proposals left to be implemented, and over a year left in the implementation period, which was set at three years. The package includes six constitutional, five political, 16 administrative and 34 economic proposals.
The federal and provincial governments are yet to initiate some mega projects that are part of the much-celebrated reforms package, said a 43-page progress report prepared by the Establishment Division.
The prime minister will chair a meeting of the cabinet division on Wednesday to address the issue.
Due to a lack of funds, work on three economic zones in Gwadar – Port of Singapore, Export Processing Zone and Industrial Zone – has not yet started. “There is no motorway between Ratodero, Sindh, and Gwadar, which is the main stumbling block in implementation of the projects,” said Balochistan Chief Secretary Ahmed Bakhsh Lehri.
The Ministry of Water and Power had proposed five dams for the province, Hingol, Naulong, Winder, Pelar and Garuk, but there was no development on the matter due to blockage of funds worth Rs2.75 billion.
Lehri said the federal government has not been able to release funds to start the projects, adding that the provincial government has requested China to finance Garuk dam, while the UAE government will support Naulong dam.
So far, the government has also been unable to release funds to the Higher Education Commission which sent in a request for 600 scholarships, costing Rs3.56 billion, for Baloch students.
Only 341 people have been given internships of the 15,000 to be awarded under the special internship programme of the ministry of youth affairs. The programme was ceased when the youth affairs ministry was devolved under the 18th amendment. The Establishment Division report said that it must be clarified which articles in the package have been affected with the devolution of ministries under the 18th amendment.
Around 340 families continue to live in self-exile, including Suleman Dawood, Brahamdagh Bugti and Hairbyar Marri, according to provincial government’s figures.
A senior leader of the Baloch nationalist movement, Mir Ali Talpur, said the government’s apathy to resolve Balochistan’s issues undermined its assurances to the people of the province. “The government’s lack of will is a stumbling block in the way of implementing this package,” he said.
(with additional input from APP)
Published in The Express Tribune, October 11th, 2011.