By S. M. Hali

The troubled province of Balochistan is being painted out to be on the verge of dismemberment from Pakistan as East Pakistan did in 1971 to become Bangladesh. It is portrayed that the people of Balochistan are totally disenchanted with Pakistan and would rather opt for independence and there is a fierce war of insurgency raging there to achieve this end. The fact is that indeed Balochistan is the largest but poorest of Pakistan’s provinces. Balochistan's share of the national income has historically ranged between 3.7% & 4.9%. Since 1972, Balochistan's gross income has grown in size by 2.7 times. But Balochistan is rich in mineral resources. The natural gas fields of Sui supply gas to the whole of Pakistan. Outside Quetta the resource extraction infrastructure of the province is gradually developing but still lags far behind other parts of Pakistan. There are currently several major exhaustible-resource-extraction related construction projects in progress in Balochistan, including the new deep sea port at Gawadar. Exhaustible resources trade will be conducted via the port to and from China. There is also Chinese involvement in the nearby Saindak gold and copper mining project. A large gold and copper deposit exists in the Chagai District and has been called the Reko Diq. The main license (EL5) is held jointly by the Government of Balochistan (25%) the rest is held by foreign interests Antofagasta Minerals (37.5%) and Barrick Gold (37.5%). These deposits are comparable in size to nationally-controlled deposits Sarcheshmeh in Iran and Escondida in Chile (which are the second and the third largest proven deposits of copper in the world). Foreign multinationals BHP Billiton and Tethyan entered into a joint venture with the Balochistan government to develop these deposits. The potential annual copper production has been estimated to be 900,000 to 2.2 million tons. The deposits seem to be largely of porphyry rock nature.

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Once Balochistan reaches its true potential, it will in fact become the richest of Pakistan’s provinces and will help sustain the economy of the whole of Pakistan. However, the atmosphere in Balochistan is tense and exasperating, duly marred with violent acts of killing innocent people/political opponents, looting and kidnapping unarmed fellow citizens for the purposes of getting payoffs and ransom, challenging the writ of the Government through armed attacks against Law Enforcement Agencies/Frontier Constabulary and shifting blame on to military and FC, thereby creating further chaos and disorder in the province. Unfortunately the political leadership both at provincial and federal levels appears to be oblivious to the consequences. It is being propagated that foreign agencies are increasing their clout to destabilize the province. The conspiracy theory is based on getting control of its rich mineral resources as well as exploiting its strategic location overlooking the Arabian Sea. Unfortunately, instead of thwarting the evil eye being cast on the province, the political leadership along with a few drum beaters in the media, is busy reiterating that situation in Balochistan has worsened due to the mess created by Army/ISI/FC. This is extremely cynical and contemptuous, as political Government is in place for the last over four years and for the first time the civilian Government is likely to complete its five years’ term. Media and the public opinion builders show bigotry/prejudice against Army/ ISI/FC and still blame the previous Government/Army/FC for their total failure to complete any of their developmental projects or to address the problem of law and order situation, political turmoil and foreign interference in the province. Huge amounts of developmental funds have been expended by political leaders who still govern the province but have failed to arrange/provide any relief to the people of Balochistan.

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The truth is that a handful of agitated feudal lords are trying to foment trouble and use certain divisive Baloch Diaspora, who is fanning separatism. The majority of the Balochis neither want separation nor dissidence. They are interested in peace and prosperity. It is imperative that to silence the scalawags and rabble-rousers, the media should suggest to all concerned to stop blaming Army/ISI/FC for matters related to failure of political leadership and give chance to pro-federation majority to express its views on unity of federation, patriotism and loyalty to Pakistan, rejecting the illegal demands of few delinquent separatists and wayward rebels. The majority of peace-loving Baloch deserve the peace and tranquility along with the basic amenities of life like education, health, communication and employment opportunities. Prosperity can return to Balochistan by sinking the differences and making a concerted effort to uplift the status of the common Baloch.