by Muhammad Ahmad Khan 8 November 2022
Balochistan, the largest province in Pakistan is under turmoil since the country’s inception. Socio-political drawbacks in policy preferences urged grievances in Baloch. Theories of extremism and terrorism narrate social and economic deprivation as one of the major factors behind individuals going extremist. Sense of deprivation comes from comparison. When one particular group compares it with other groups that look better creates an inferiority complex. Will Durant has also mentioned such consequences of inequalities in his book The Fallen Leaves. Balochistan is geo-strategically and geo-economically important for Pakistan. It could play an important role in the country’s development. But systemic as well as domestic security issues caused the country to be indulged in resolving these problems. This generated a narrative among Baloch people that the center is less concerned about them. They started asking for their political and economic rights. It led the Baloch to start extremist movements against the center. So, far four insurgent movements have been initiated in 1948, 1958, 1962, and 1973 respectively, and the one ongoing started in 2003.
Analysts believe that to cater to these extremist movements whose agenda is socio-economic deprivation, the government must initiate developmental projects for these regions and integrate them politically and socially. The government had started the socio-economic development and political integration of Balochistan. CPEC, one of the wholesome developmental projects will create economic opportunities to develop Balochistan and enhance the social stability and political integration of the province. Throughout history, Balochistan has been important in the economic and strategic aspects of locations. In front of the Indian Ocean, it connects Pakistan with Gulf, Africa, Australia, and other Indian Ocean countries. CPEC connects Kashghar to Gwadar through rail and road networks. But this must be noted that it not only benefits Pakistan but China also. However, the utmost concern is to develop Balochistan so the people can be reengaged with the center.
Different industrial and energy projects have been initiated. Some are completed while some are in progress. For Balochistan, specifically, there is Zhob-Quetta Highway, Gwadar Primary School, Gwadar East Bay Expressway, Gwadar-Nwabshah LNG Terminal, Gwadar Smart Port City, Gwadar International Airport Makran Coastal, 300 MW Power Plant at Gwadar, and 1300 MW Hub Coal Power Plant. Moreover, there are road projects like 106 km Khuzdar-Basima Road, 168 KM Awaran-Khuz road, 46km Hoshan-Awaran road, 305Km Zhob-Quetta road, and 235KM DI Khan-Zhob road.
Extremist movements like Balochistan Liberation Army, Balochistan Liberation Front, Balochistan Liberation Organization, and Jindullah, are unable to understand the significance of these projects for their development. Once the CPEC will be completed, it will connect the province with the world markets, ultimately drawing attention. The government is trying hard to mainstream Baloch by answering the socio-economic grievances, but these movements have caused troubles in the way of development. Official media websites of these extremist organizations state that they will not allow the Pakistani government and China to exploit the resources of Baloch. Balochistan is not a separate entity. All provinces belong to one country, Pakistan. And it’s the responsibility of the government to answer any grievances coming from any region, either its Punjab, Balochistan, Sindh, or GB.
Due to security and economic concerns, the CPEC slowed down in recent years. Firstly, the pandemic caused a slowdown in Chinese funding to developmental projects all across the world. Secondly, attacks by these extremist organizations on Chinese workers have urged China to rethink its investment. No country can bear the cost of development when its workers are shot dead in the host country. Baloch must realize the ultimate consequences of these extremist movements.
The government is concerned about Balochistan. The recent visit of Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif to China has also focused on boosting the progress of CPEC projects. These initiatives will create job opportunities for the Baloch people and will make Balochistan a major industrial and economic hub of Pakistan. Extremism will also come to a halt as the theories refer. But until this time, the people must hold their confidence in the government. Balochistan will prosper soon, and its people will be the ultimate beneficiaries.