Balochistan [Pakistan], May 24 (ANI): As the emerging situation in Afghanistan following the US withdrawal indicates a political and military meltdown, the spate of insurgent strikes in recent months in Balochistan depicts a growing level of disaffection among the population.
Kaiser Bengali, a member of Pakistan's National Finance Commission (NFC), in an opinion piece for The News International, said that the scenario in Afghanistan poses serious multi-pronged security consequences for Pakistan and the situation in Balochistan requires a serious attempt at political reconciliation.
"National security demands that all possible internal fronts be closed to enable the state to face threats emanating from across the borders. The conflict in Balochistan is of local origin and the state holds all the cards at resolving it," he said.
He further said that the alienation in Balochistan had arisen on account of the consistent denial of political rights and the province "stands bereft of any semblance of provincial autonomy".
Bengali also highlighted the exploitation of the province's resources to enrich the rest of the country, leaving it poverty-stricken. He also noted that there has been no attempt so far to integrate Balochistan with the country's political and economic framework.
"Economic infrastructure to support productive activities is derelict in the northern and north-eastern divisions of Quetta and Naseerabad and largely absent in the rest of the province. Gwadar has been reduced to an 'island', rendered inaccessible to the local population," he wrote in his opinion article for The News International.
Bengali also pointed out that cross-border trading is the principal economic lifeline for most of the population in the western half of Balochistan and fencing the border with Iran and Afghanistan has choked their principal source of sustenance and created severe shortages of daily use items.
Despite the critical importance of surface communications in the province's economic life, its road density is half that of the national average, he further wrote.
"This is a consequence of historical neglect. Examination of National Highway Authority (NHA) investment expenditure data over 2002-2007 showed that a mere nine percent of allocation was made for the province that comprises over 40 percent of the country's land mass," Bengali wrote for The News International.
He also called for the replacement of the NHA with six provincial highway authorities and a major rethink in the corridors of power to address Balochistan's economic needs.
Balochistan is a resource-rich but least developed province of Pakistan where a movement for freedom is ongoing for the past several decades.
Many Baloch believe that the region was independent before 1947 and was forcibly occupied by Pakistan. While successive governments have promised to criminalise enforced disappearance, none has taken concrete steps and the practice continues with impunity.
Recently, fighting between the Pakistan security forces and Baloch insurgents have intensified in the region. (ANI)