The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s government is planning to replace its predecessor’s flagship programme for Balochistan with a new policy after it failed to resolve the festering problems of the troubled province.
“We intend to introduce a new policy … We believe a vibrant economic policy can heal the wounds of the people of the violence-wrecked province,” Minister for States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) Lt-Gen (retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch told The Express Tribune.
The previous Pakistan Peoples Party-led government had introduced the Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan (AHB) package with much fanfare in 2009 as part of its efforts to stabilise the situation in the province.
The wide-ranging package – which was aimed at eliminating the sense of deprivation among the people – comprised six constitutional, five political, 16 administrative and 34 economic proposals. However, the government could implement just 43 of the 61 proposals by the end of its five-year constitutional tenure.
The incumbent government’s new Balochistan policy will focus on the 18 non-implemented proposals of the AHB package, officials preparing the draft told The Express Tribune.
Its prime focus, according to them, will be Balochistan’s share in gas royalties from the Iran-Pakistan pipeline agreement – under the $1.4 billion pact, Islamabad intends to import 750mmcfd of gas from Tehran. The new policy will allocate a third (250mmcfd) of the gas imported under the agreement to Balochistan.
It also proposes admitting around 5,000 youths from Balochistan in vocational training institutes and sending another 5,000 skilled workers abroad for better employment opportunities.
The policy also focuses on the revival of the Pakistan Railways service from Quetta to Zhob, and later to Dera Ismail Khan and Bhakkar. A study on this aspect has already been completed and the project’s proposal will be presented before the finance ministry soon, according to the officials.
Other proposals include setting up an electricity transmission line from Dera Ismail Khan to Zhob, and providing television boosters to all 32 districts of the province. It prioritises the completion of 100 delay-action dams currently under construction in Balochistan, and the construction of four small to medium dams to fulfill the agricultural needs of the province.
The new policy also includes a development package worth Rs4.1 billion for Dera Bugti and its adjacent areas, and initiatives worth Rs1.63 billion for Kohlu district. These will include schools, water supply schemes, hospital and roads for the respective areas, said the officials.
In addition to the economic aspects of the government’s new Balochistan policy, the interior ministry will include a portion related to security in order to overhaul the province’s policing structure, officials from the ministry told The Express Tribune.
Under the security policy for Balochistan, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan will decide the fate of the judicial inquiry into the killings of Baloch political workers, they revealed.
Nisar will also make a decision on constituting a judicial commission to probe the killing of Jamhoori Wattan Party chief Nawab Akbar Bugti and look into the judicial inquiry into the controversial allotment of hundreds of acres of land in Gwadar.
When contacted, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Political Secretary Asif Kirmani said a meeting to review all policies pertaining to Balochistan will take place soon. “The Balochistan issue is being taken seriously by the prime minister,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2013.
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