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Balochistan: Crying for Attention: Crying for Attention

By Imtiaz Gul

 Weekly Pulse, July 13, 2012

 

Law and order in Balochistan has broken down largely because of certain groups that enjoy direct or indirect support of some state institutions. The provincial government and the security forces, particularly the FC and the intelligence agencies, shall have to review their skewed “peace management tactics” if they want to improve the situation and restore public trust in the government security machinery. These tactics have only precipitated the crisis of security and governance.

These views resonated at a workshop, organized by the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), Islamabad, and the Association for Integrated Development (AID), where most speakers lamented the governance failure under the current coalition, which members of civil society allege seems interested in self-enrichment only.

The largest yardstick for the financial bonanza that 58 ministers and advisors today enjoy is the hand-outs worth at least Rs.250 to every Member of the Provincial Assembly. It is the first time that the entire development budget has been distributed among all MPs. This sum has in fact been jacked up to 350 million for the current year, empowering each member assembly with massive financial resources and opening doors to unlimited corruption. 

“Despite receiving massive funding from the federal government in the last three years, the government has failed in governance and service delivery,” Dr.Ishaq Baloch, senior vice president of the National Party, told the participants. 

Under the 6th National Finance Commission Award, the province used to get about 43 billion rupees from the federal consolidated fund. Under the 7th NFC award signed at Gwadar in 2009, the share of Balochistan doubled from 5.1 to 9.09 percent. i.e. a net transfer of about 83 billion rupees which has been progressively increasing. Over and above the NFC allocation, the Centre has been paying at least 10 billion in gas royalty arrears, meaning that total funds transfer from the Centre has meanwhile crossed the 100 billion mark. As far as Islamabad is concerned, it has tried to accommodate the long-standing demands of Balochistan regarding funds like gas revenues (Surcharge, royalty and excise duty and well-head gas price). 

But every body asks as to where those funds are sinking; the roads, the hospitals, education institutions and services are all in a shambles. The chief minister has acquired a new aircraft. That is why most people agree that all major political parties sitting in the Balochistan ruling coalition are responsible for the current governance and security failure as every MPA/minister is confined to his constituency and given to own interests.

Speakers said that the current crisis seems to flow from a one-point agenda of the PPP-led coalition government i.e. to serve their party/personal interests. But, there is general perception about provincial government that all funds it gets from the center are being pocketed by members of a government whose head only briefly visits Quetta after prolonged family stays in Islamabad.

Baloch missing persons, for which the Supreme Court has set a new momentum in motion, target-killings of Hazara/Shia community, kidnapping for ransom, particularly of minorities, highway robberies, and dismal state of the social sector appear to be the issues that require urgent attention, but the ruling coalition, speakers insisted, seems to be preoccupied with other priorities.

Most participants agreed that minorities, Hindus and Shia Hazaras in particular, have become “soft targets” for all those wanting to destabilize Balochistan. They also pointed out that in the absence of the chief minister, who spends most of the time in Islamabad, the entire government machinery also doesn’t seem interested in seriously addressing issues such as spiraling crime, and development issues of the province.

Media representatives as well as development workers are all wary not only of the government’s indifference to fundamental human rights, but also live in a state of fear. We are caught between the military, the militants (both ethnic and religious) and the criminal mafias, observed a journalist who works for a national tv channel. Another journalist complained that even political parties react to media the way militants and security forces do. The social environment, they said, has become very intimidating and increasingly insecure. We are hostage to fear, intimidation, reprisals and dictation, said another journalist, bureau chief for a national daily ( all names withheld upon the request of journalists).

The writer is executive director of the Centre for Research and Security Studies  

Email: imtiaz@crss.pk