Dr. Abdul Malik Baloch is the former chief minister of Balochistan. He is the President of the National Party and the first non-tribal CM of Balochistan. He recently appeared in Bol News’ talk show Real Politics to discuss the issues facing the province. Narratives presents excerpts from the discussion.
When we talk about a government, we are actually referring to a democracy, not dictatorships. If you look at Pakistan’s history, democracy is still immature here because we have largely been ruled by dictators. Pakistan’s democratic institutions have not flourished because political parties have not been allowed to grow in the real sense of the word.
Political parties have become elitist parties. Any political party must have three attributes: leadership, decision-making and criticism should be collective. These characteristics are missing from our parties which is why they have been unable to deliver. Furthermore, you must let the people decide who will represent them.
When I was given the reins of the province – and I am very grateful to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai for that – I confronted a host of issues: religious extremism was at its peak, the Baloch insurgency was in full swing and law and order was in shambles. In short, there was an institutional breakdown.
Gradually, my political team tackled these grave challenges by taking the military and civil bureaucracies on board. Due to their efforts, suicide attacks in Balochistan have considerably decreased, bullet-riddled bodies are no longer discovered and our roads are now much safer.
Therefore, I believe transparency and accountability are key to good governance. Unfortunately, coalitions are always formed in Balochistan and it becomes quite difficult to govern because in a coalition, every party has its own agenda and resources are limited.
We, the Baloch, are an ideological and political people. We believe that the peasants, labourers, and intellectuals are the real owners of this country. Our dreams will be fulfilled once the Balochistan assembly is full of political workers. Human resource is the biggest problem in every sector in Balochistan.
However, we have organised our Public Service Commission and put it in the hands of very honest and competent people. There is no question of bribery in that institution. Posts in the education sector have also been distributed on merit. Today, all education staff in Balochistan is appointed through National Testing Service.
Balochistan is a resource-rich province. Our economy comprises four strong factors: minerals, gas and oil; secondly, agriculture; thirdly, our coastline and finally our livestock. However, we haven’t been able to manage our resources efficiently. Islamabad does not have positive intentions regarding the use of Balochistan’s resources, they be Sui gas or Saindak’s copper and gold. Even today, Sui and Dera Bugti are considered to be among the most deprived areas of Balochistan.
Historically, it was believed that if any man had cattle, he was rich. Then a point came when the ownership of land was believed to symbolise wealth. Later, industrialists were considered the richest people. However, in the 21st century, a person with knowledge is the richest.
Our market is knowledge-driven, not resource-driven. During my tenure, we focused on girls’ education. We made a plan for the education sector with the help of the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme. We increased the education budget from four percent to 24 percent which was the largest budget in three years. We set up three medical colleges in Balochistan.
We also tried to contain absenteeism and cheating in educational institutions which I monitored myself for three years. Today, I feel proud of the fact that the students of Balochistan are also doing wonderfully well in the Central Superior Service examinations.
Ideally, every child has the right to equal opportunities. But this doesn’t happen in any society. We don’t have academic experts who could introduce modern education in Pakistan. Admittedly, we have failed in the field of skill development. We couldn’t run 40-45 skill development centres effectively.
The fate of the province can only change through investment. We need Rs. 100-150 million to execute any project and we don’t have that much capital. Additionally, the federal government doesn’t want to lend us any money.
Consequently, we can’t conduct modern mining and 75 percent of our mines are being laid to waste by digging which is undertaken in the hope of discovering minerals. Moreover, Balochistan has been in the grip of terror for ten years. Investors were reluctant to come here due to security concerns.
But when I took over, I formed a reforms committee and hired Pakistan’s best economist, Dr. Kaiser Bengali, who prioritised investment. Basically, we have laid the foundation for investment to be done in Balochistan.
Connectivity between the cities of the province has improved. It used to take travellers 28 hours to reach Quetta from Turbat, Gwadar, or Panjgur. But now it takes just eight hours.
We endorse the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and want to see it succeed. However, our party has a few suggestions and queries for the federal government. Firstly, what will be the share of Balochistan and Gwadar in the investment that CPEC will bring? Secondly, we should be given the authority to run Gwadar port.
Thirdly, how will you ensure the protection of the local community? No one will tolerate the real residents of Gwadar being treated like the aborigines of Australia or the Native Americans in the United States, who were the indigenous people of those lands and pushed out by colonists. Fourthly, what will be the share of Balochistan and Gwadar in the employment opportunities and investment? The federal government will have to consider these issues to ensure CPEC’s success.