Gwadar International Airport 01
Prime Minister Imran Khan performing the ground-breaking of new Gwadar International Airport project in Gwadar, a port city on the southwestern coast of Balochistan, Pakistan. Image Credit: Courtesy: PID

Balochistan. Often an eleven-letter bleak headline, darkened in the blood of its inhabitants killed in acts of terrorism. In the national discourse Balochistan always appears to be at the bottom of the list of the top priorities of almost all incumbent governments. Decades of institutional–at times intentional, sometimes accidental–neglect bordering on apathy widening the schisms between the haves and have-nots also became an accelerant for the already marked disconnect and distance that a certain part of the Baloch population has felt for and with Pakistan since its inception in 1947.

Balochistan, the largest province of Pakistan in terms of its size, and hugely immense natural resources and human talent seems to be in a perpetual struggle with its status of being a backbencher in the collective national consciousness.

How CPEC will affect Balochistan in countless positive ways is a subject that needs an expert insight. The reason why I thought about writing on Balochistan was the deep pain I experienced while writing last week about the slain Hazaras of Balochistan. Pakistan’s Balochistan is much, much more than a macabre story of pain and hopelessness and othering and biases and backwardness. 2021 began with the massacre of eleven Hazara labourers, a tragedy that is immeasurably huge. I wrote about that. Today as a tribute to the slain people of Balochistan, I write about the Balochistan that, inshaAllah, will be different for their next generation. A developed Balochistan will not erase the memory of the blood of its dead, but it may help in giving a much-needed sense of security to its young, its hopeful, its struggling, its suffering.

In September of 2019, Chief Minister of Balochistan Jam Kamal Khan, head of Balochistan Awami Party, stated: “I can say this with the utmost conviction that Balochistan’s governance model is great this time. It is the way a government is supposed to work–discipline, accountability, transparency, effectiveness, monitoring; regular interaction with [all] departments, cabinet meetings; [monitoring of] any policy that would improve the system of the province; ascertain and then decentralise financial responsibilities. It is all in place. Almost all of it has happened, and gradually, results are being seen.”

In 2020, I noticed the hashtag “Emerging Balochistan” on my Twitter timeline. #EmergingBalochistan. Used in the tweets of Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan and the members of his cabinet, the hashtag is symbolic of the intentions, plans, implementation, and follow-up work of the current government of Balochistan. The cautiously optimistic hashtag covers a wide range of ideas and execution, dreams and fulfilment, initiatives and results. What was, what is and what will be, time is to be a judge of that. Today #EmergingBalochistan is the synthesis of the hopes and aspirations of the people of Balochistan in the backdrop of a decades long sense of discrimination, deprivation and despair.

Before January 2021, as the traumatic 2020 whimpered to its shadowy end, Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan continued to tweet, hash-tagging the work his government was doing throughout 2020. Just in December 2020:

On Dec 1, 2020, Chief Minister quote-tweeted Balochistan Board of Investment and Trade: “An overall comprehensive development in Gwadar from both federal and provincial governments [for] the first time. #EmergingBalochistan”

Balochistan Board of Investment & Trade had tweeted: “China and Pakistan on Monday showed resolve to expedite work on Gwadar Airport for completion. China will also [give] support on socioeconomic projects in Gwadar, including the projects related to agriculture, livestock and fisheries. #EmergingBalochistan”

On December 5, Chief Minister retweeted Balochistan Board of Investment & Trade’s tweet:

“Balochistan’s first-ever Investment Policy draft has been finalised, following due process, along with assistance from EU/PFM-II and input from other stakeholders. #Balochistan #Pakistan #InvestinBalochistan #EmergingBalochistan”

On December 6, Chief Minister tweeted: “Fatima Jinnah Hospital #Quetta and its dedicated faculty from day one has been doing a great job. The newly rehabilitated ward with all its required services is giving its utmost. #EmergingBalochistan”

On December 6, Chief Minister tweeted: “Health department is going to strengthen 11 DHQs in first stage and these have been declared as teaching hospitals. In [the] current budget there is an allocation of Rs 50 million for each hospital. Procurement committees have been developed to division level. #EmergingBalochistan”

On December 6, Chief Minister tweeted: “[The] announced job opportunities in [the] health sector shall assist in [ending] unemployment and will make the health services better for many areas in #Balochistan. #EmergingBalochistan”

On December 6, Chief Minister tweeted: “Government of Balochistan advertises [the] establishment of 9 PCR labs in the province. InshaAllah, after this, more areas in Balochistan shall be covered with testing of corona and other very important tests. This will be done at district level. #EmergingBalochistan”

On December 6, Chief Minister tweeted: “A beautiful view of Miani with Dolphins swimming. Govt of Balochistan is making [for the] first time [a] resort for tourists [there]. #EmergingBalochistan #BeautifulBalochistan”

On December 7, Chief Minister tweeted: “A step forward. All govt-[run] girls and boys colleges in Balochistan [are being changed] to degree colleges. Not only this, [there is] an ongoing project to enhance all [of their existing] facilities. [The] proposal of establishing postgraduate colleges is under consideration; these colleges will start BS, BSc, BA, ADE courses inshaAllah. #EmergingBalochistan”

On December 8, Chief Minister tweeted: “[In the context of the revamping of the Bolan Medical Complex] each step shall inshaAllah be towards betterment and improvement and [will be] service oriented. #EmergingBalochistan”

On December 13, Chief Minister tweeted (sans the hashtag): “Government of #Balochistan appointed 1400 teaching and 780 non-teaching staff. Recruitment of more than 1550 teaching and 1800 non-teaching staff in pipeline. Through the Public Service Commission 459 SSTs recruited and more than 700 SSTs in the final stage.”

On December 13, Chief Minister tweeted (sans the hashtag): “Education is [the] top priority of the present government. [After the] upgradation of more than 53 girls schools from primary to middle and 53 girls schools from middle to high, the government is upgrading 85 schools of boys from primary to middle and 18 from middle to high.”

On December 14, Chief Minister tweeted: “30 billion worth [development] projects [are] underway. #EmergingBalochistan”

On December 18, Chief Minister tweeted: “Recruitment of 363 new doctors along with [the] precious contractual ones will further strengthen health services inshaAllah in #Balochistan. #EmergingBalochistan”

On December 18, Chief Minister tweeted: “Connecting #Balochistan with #Sindh via Sobatpur (new road) to Kashmore shall bring a great change. First time after [becoming] a district since 2013 we are making a district hospital [there]. #EmergingBalochistan”

On December 18, Chief Minister tweeted (sans the hashtag): “Extension of health facilities in rural areas of Balochistan. TB control through tele-medicine, rehab of RHCs and the rest of health facilities is one of the key elements in far flung areas.”

On December 20, Chief Minister tweeted: “BMC MBBS seats are 189 and Govt [of] Balochistan has decided to increase seats to 300. BDS seats increased from 35 to 50. This historic achievement added 126 MBBS and BDS seats in just one year. Seats for minorities and people with disabilities increased from 4 to14. #EmergingBalochistan”

On December 21, Chief Minister tweeted: “Dera Murad development projects, [construction of] Manjoi Shori Rd 50 km, Chattar 45 km; industrial expansion; [establishment of] daar-ul-aman, women hostel, Futsaal, administration offices, residential [areas], main Dera Murad dual road. This development is alhamdulilah in all districts of #Balochistan. #EmergingBalochistan”

On December 26, Chief Minister tweeted: “[The] newly extended road [and] new development for tourism and infrastructure for Ziarat shall inshaAllah revolutionarise the whole area for tourists, economy and employment. Its first phase shall be inshaAllah ready by March 2021. #visitziarat #EmergingBalochistan”

On December 26, Chief Minister tweeted: “Equipment for snow removal on roads and towns shall [provide] better service in acutely [affected] areas of Ziarat, #Quetta, Kan Mehtarzai, Khanozai and rest. #EmergingBalochistan”

On December 28, Chief Minister tweeted: “InshaAllah, [the] Government of Balochistan shall plan an international boxing event in Quetta. We are proud of Waseem [Mohammad Waseem, boxer from Quetta, Balochistan] and how he has performed amazingly. #EmergingBalochistan”

2020 ended.

May 2021 beyond January be the year most of Balochistan’s dreams and aspirations come true.

Mehr Tarar, Special to Gulf News-1592296810288