Pakistan, Balochistan, CPEC

Balochistan – often identified as the wild and rather discontented southern nook of Pakistan, made plenteous headlines last year – headlines narrating tales of blood, of cold and brutal rebellion, of violence, of unaddressed grievances, of economic alienation and most importantly of a misplaced nostalgia morphed into the most hideous manifestations of reclaiming the lost glory that this resourceful land and its inhabitants once enjoyed. Though this last dimension has failed to earn much prominence, it does have a glaring relation with the dynamics of the eminently disturbing prevalent circumstances in Balochistan.

The largest and the most resourcefully blessed province, spread across a vast area of 340,190 sq. km, Balochistan territorially constitutes 43.6 per cent of Pakistan. Despite its resourcefulness, the province garnered prominence only after the expansion of the CPEC projects along and within its boundaries. Though since the initiation of the plans of investing in the region there have been contesting views over the kind of development that the CPEC projects were to bring, the developmental initiatives continued to progress in the province. As a part of the declared CPEC plan, the projects in Balochistan division were to span from the eastern to the western end, with central province included in the course of development as well. This included some sixteen projects through the entire province. That said, there is not much discussion about the course and pace of development on the western front, as compared to the never-ending accounts of progressive initiatives in other provinces. Some of the major projects under the auspices of CPEC included the construction of highway linking Dera Ismail Khan with Zhob under the Hakla- D. I. Khan motorway initiative. Another project aimed to materialize 470 km up-gradation of N-25 from Surab to Hoshab. Another proposed project envisaged the construction of a highway linking Hoshab and Gwadar. This last project has been well under way and is near its completion at present. Together, these projects were also referred to as the ‘western alignment’.

The largest and the most resourcefully blessed province, spread across a vast area of 340,190 sq. km, Balochistan territorially constitutes 43.6 per cent of Pakistan.

Towards the end of 2018, the people of Balochistan stood hopeless, their narratives guided by a sheer sense of ignorance and deprivation in their own lands, the political management squabbling for control and provincial powers within and jostling against the Federal Government beyond the province, voicing up for the rightful share of its people in the on-going development ventures. Despite economic and political tensions within this splendidly blessed south of the country, Balochistan still seems to be suffering from a chronic state of intellectual neglect. A month already into the new year i.e. 2019, considerable accounts have been penned down discussing the state of affairs during the preceding year and how the poor status of security has led to the disruption of peace in the province. What still remains absent from the discourse(s) on the evolving conditions in Balochistan, is the socio-historical perspective and the critical need to take into account the said factor when formulating the policy framework(s) for Balochistan.

Balochistan is heir to an extremely rich history in terms of its leadership and management of resources. As nostalgists rightfully point out that when one way of running the world is exhausted, but the next is yet to emerge, it is in the past that nations find refugee to run their worlds. History moves to function as the supreme driver of sustaining livelihoods across time and space unless a new, better order is put in place to alter the realities. In this vein, historical anecdote provides considerable evidence to attest to the suspicion of previous rulers and governors on the slightest external intervention(s). Today, as the province stands at the brink of demanding isolation, marred by an inherent sense of alienation and a disturbingly uncontrollable wave of separatism, the policy makers at the helm of affairs need to make sure that the root causes of Baloch grievance are effectively addressed, primarily so, by enlightening the native Baloch with the very basics of the on-going developmental ventures as non-interventionist establishments. Nostalgia despite being a phenomenon both politically inacceptable and empirically untenable must be taken into account whilst making efforts to bring the disgruntled factions within Balochistan on board. This does not call for justifying any violence in the name of eulogizing the once glorious past, it does however point towards the need to look beyond the existing state of affairs. The past that survives in the common mind of the present is the past which leads to a floundering state of reminiscence. And the incumbent government needs to make some serious amends in the year 2019 to address the ever-concerning difficulties in Balochistan.

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