By S. M. Hali
Despite being the richest in mineral resources and having a 750 Kilometer coastline, offering tranquil beaches and abundance of marine life, Balochistan is the most neglected province of Pakistan. Subsequent governments have not only left the Balochis in gross neglect but plundered its riches, leaving the inhabitant in shabby and decrepit condition. Besides the federal government, the provincial governments of Balochistan and the feudal lords of the state have been complicit in this criminal abandon. In the decade 2000 onwards, various development projects were launched to improve the plight of the Balochis but this is a case of too little, too late. Decisions that should have been taken in the seventies and eighties are being taken now, which does little to alleviate the misery of the people. Resultantly, the Balochis have been exploited to fuel insurgency and strife. Most of their grouse is genuine but taking up arms was not the prescribed action.
In the near past, the armed forces of Pakistan have taken up the cudgels for the uplift of the Balochis. The main areas of concern have been education, health and means of livelihood to wean away the disgruntled elements into lives of normalcy. Both the Army and Navy have spearheaded projects in induction of the Balochi youth into their respective services as well as setting up educational and medical institutions. As regards recruitment in the Armed Forces, there have been adequate vacancies, but less number of Balochi youth preferred this profession, mainly because of illiteracy and ignorance. Resultantly, there has been less representation of the Balochi youth in the Armed Forces of Pakistan. In order to create awareness among the Balochi youth about the military, and subsequently choosing it as their profession, over the past few years, the Armed Forces have started a massive awareness campaign and concession package all over the province. The Army’s campaign met overwhelming successes. Thousands of the Balochi youth appeared for the recruitment in various Army recruitment centers. 4,000 Balochi recruits of this massive recruitment campaign have completed their basic military training on October 29, 2010 and joined various units of Pak Army as soldiers; prior to this, a batch of 10000, Baloch were inducted into the Army. Induction of these soldiers in large numbers is a major milestone and a historical occasion for their families and province. Additionally, 10,000 Balochi recruits still undergoing basic military training in various training institutions are likely to join the prestigious service in the near future.
Pakistan Navy (PN) has launched the “N” Cadet scheme in which Balochi youth are being inducted in different cadet colleges through a sponsorship system in which the youth will be able to join PN after completion of their studies. In a fast track scheme, Balochi youth are being taken directly into PN as officers without undergoing the rigours of ISSB. Two years after commissioning, they will have to undergo the selection process by ISSB, by which time they will be better equipped to pass the tests. Similar schemes are being undertaken for induction into PN’s other ranks. Different branches of Bahriya schools and colleges are being set up in the province, while simultaneously, local schools are being sponsored by PN where school books, furniture, sports gear and development funds are being provided.
On its part, local Army units have been assigned by the COAS to arrange educational classes for the children of poor people who cannot afford the heavy expenses of imparting the education to their kids as well as bearing the expenditures of the children locally as well as studying elsewhere. Their boarding, lodging and tuition fee is borne by Pak Army from its own resources. Army’s contributions in the social progress of Balochistan including Chamalang Education Program, Sui Education City, and Gawadar Institutes of Technical Education are remarkable projects. Measures have been taken to sustain these projects which are contributing positively towards better education and creation of jobs for common people particularly in remote areas of Balochistan.
Health has received no less attention. Both the Army and PN have set up medical centers and hospitals, where not only do Balochis receive free treatment but medicines are also provided on gratis basis. PN Hospital Darmanjah at Ormara with a 100-bed facility and state-of-the-art medical equipment is a matter of pride for Pakistan. Additionally, serious patients are transferred to major facilities in Karachi and other metropolitan centers if required. These facilities also provide employment opportunities to Balochi boys and girls. The contribution of Armed Forces in bringing the Balochi youth into mainstream through their induction process is commendable.