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What Balochistan can look forward to after Pakistan elections?

10 Feb 2024

Balochistan [Pakistan], February 10 (ANI): As the results of the Pakistan general elections is about to be declared, the situation of people in Balochistan remains unchanged as all the key issues concerning them continue to be overlooked, a news piece by Sidra Iqbal Baloch in the Balochistan Post stated.

Multiple ongoing protests organised by the Baloch community, highlight the level of frustration and urgency felt by the people.

The report stated that, although voting is considered a constitutional right of the people to bring forward their grievances towards the administration, even then, the quantum of tangible change in the fate of Balochistan's people continues to remain debatable.

"All elections in Pakistan, whether provincial, senate, or national, have consistently failed to address the plight of Balochistan. Instead of bringing benefits, they have been used as tools to perpetuate the suppression of the Baloch nation. The policies remain unchanged, and the systematic oppression and genocide in Balochistan continue unabated. Despite the oaths of democratic processes, the reality is that they have only served to further marginalize and suppress the Baloch people. It's clear that the current electoral system does not prioritize the interests or well-being of Balochistan," the article stated.

Balochistan's Provincial AssemblyThe Balochistan Post article also raised concerns about the provincial assembly calling establishment of the provincial assembly in Balochistan a "mockery." It claimed that that despite the presence of provincial leaders the area still remains dominated by the Pakistan Army and the people face disappearances or death just for raising their voices for their rights.

Sui Gas CrisisThe report further explained the key issues of the people, that the provincial administration of Balochistan and central administration of Pakistan have failed to address and resolve.

It stated that natural gas in Balochistan was first discovered in 1952 and by 1955 the gas was being supplied to the entire Pakistan originating from Sui fields, hence the name 'Sui Gas'. The companies responsible for its distribution were known as Sui Southern Gas Company and Sui Northern Gas Company.

It is noteworthy that the initial provinces to receive gas supply from Sui gas were Punjab and Sindh. Punjab accounts for only 4 per cent of gas production, despite consuming 43 per cent of the supply. However, Balochistan contributes 17 per cent to the national gas supply, while Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) adds 10 per cent.

Although Balochistan is the primary producer of natural gas in Pakistan, the majority of Tehsil Headquarters (THQ) in the province experience deprivation, with only 25 out of 81 towns having access to gas supply.

Remarkably, even the town of Sui, located just four miles away from the gas fields with a daily supply of 800 MMCF, does not have direct access to gas, the Balochistan Post article stated.

Gwadar Water CrisisRegarding the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Sidra Iqbal Baloch stated that Gwadar is an essential part of the CPEC project. Even after having several ongoing multimillion-dollar projects the area faces many challenges.

Despite having abundant water in the area, residents of Gwadar struggle for access to fresh water. The residents of Gwadar have been compelled to purchase costly water or endure lengthy waits for government-subsidized water, which is transported from a distance of 80 kilometres. In a desperate attempt to solve the water problem, some residents resorted to boiling sea water for drinking purposes, which explains the severity of the water shortage in a water-abundant area.

The piece further stated that continuous efforts are being made to alert the authorities about the water crisis but have received no response.

Power ShortageThe Balochistan Post report added that Balochistan currently faces a severe energy deficit, not only in the economic sector but in all other spheres of life of the Baloch community.

It quoted a report by the National Assembly of Pakistan in stating that merely 36 per cent of Balochistan has access to electricity leaving majority of the area without essential energy resources. Balochistan, which is the largest province by area, presently requires roughly 2500 MW of electricity. However, the supplied amount falls within the range of 400 MW to 600 MW.

Further, Balochistan generates approximately 2422 MW of electricity through gas-based thermal power plants. However, the bulk of this electricity is being exported to other provinces. Even the agriculture-influenced areas like Khuzdar, Surab, and Qila Saifullah are affected by the long load-shedding and increasing electricity rates. The growers are financially incapable of bearing huge electricity bills, it added.

Unavailability of educational resourcesBalochistan, often hailed for its abundant natural resources, has unfortunately earned the title of being the region with the highest number of out-of-school children, surpassing 2 million.

The report quoted figures from Pakistan Education Statistics, which reveal that more than 630,000 children should be enrolled in primary schools, along with over 1.25 million who are missing out on middle, high, or higher secondary education opportunities. Gender inequality in literacy rates is also a significant concern, with only 37 per cent of males and 15 per cent of females being literate. This gap is more pronounced in rural regions.

Lack of facilities in hospitalsEach year, numerous individuals lose their lives due to the absence of hospitals or adequate medical facilities in Balochistan. People are forced to travel for hours to reach larger cities for emergency medical care, resulting in fatalities for some during transit.

The Balochistan Post report further quoted the World Health Organisation (WHO), which has voiced concerns regarding the deteriorating health facilities in Balochistan. A recent WHO report on Balochistan reveals that more than 257 health centres are only operational in documentation, 656 health centers are functioning partially, and half of the 1661 health facilities are currently closed.

Death SquadsThe most life-threatening concern for the Baloch community has been the presence of death squads and state-sponsored militias or paramilitary groups, which have inflicted immense suffering on the populace.

These groups target activists, journalists, and civilians suspected of dissenting against the government or advocating for Baloch's rights with impunity. And use tactics like abduction, torture, and extrajudicial killings to instill fear and silence opposition voices.

Conclusively, the authored report by Sidra Iqbal Baloch in the Balochistan Post stated that there have been over 40,000 cases of enforced disappearances and thousands of cases of fake encounters, resulting in the deaths of thousands of young individuals. Despite everything, the situation of the people of Balochistan gets worse by the day, and all issues of the people still remain to be addressed and solved. (ANI)

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