Rebellions and insurgencies do not occur in a vacuum but are reactions against political and economic injustices. A new book A Cry for Justice: Empirical Insights from Balochistan by Kaiser Bengali highlights the injustices perpetrated against Balochistan with help of irrefutable data. He has the advantage of being an advisor to Balochistan and Sindh governments but more than that he has his heart in the right place.
Bengali has summoned several witnesses to present his case. These are ‘crown witnesses’ as these are part of the official data and not a figment of imagination of the oppressed and aggrieved Baloch. The figures, they say, never lie so what he has presented in black and white goes a long way in reaffirming the justified resistance of Baloch people to their political and consequent economic repression, oppression and exploitation.
The witness ‘Gas’ is most eloquent in exposing those injustices. Even though gas was discovered in Balochistan in 1952, “not a whiff of gas was supplied to Balochistan for nearly three decades till 1982”. This despite the fact that it was the sole provider of gas for two decades. Balochistan’s share of consumption was just 2 per cent but rose to 7 per cent with the 900 MW gas-fired power plant at Uch in Dera Murad Jamali. Though, according to Quesco’s figures, Balochistan provides 2,280 MW to the national grid, its share is only 700-800 MW.
The excise duty on gas which is transferred to provinces is also flawed and eaten away by inflation. The charts tell the entire story and indict the perpetrators of injustices in Balochistan. If money is any indicator of injustices, Balochistan has been deprived of Rs. 7.69 trillion just for gas which benefited other provinces at the cost of Balochistan.
The second witness that comes forward is ‘Chronic Development Deficit’. Bengali writes that in the first two decades Balochistan doesn’t figure meaningfully in any national economic plan or budget documents and the neglect continues. Today, the province is not only lagging behind other provinces; it is falling further behind. One of the tables shows GRP average growth rate of provinces from 2000- 2011 and naturally Balochistan with 2.8 growth is not only bottom but mostly half of all others’ growth rate. In another table, ranking of Districts by Development Rankings-1996: Bottom one third districts Balochistan beats all hands down.
The Public Sector Development Program (PSDP) for Balochistan is 0.15 per cent if Gwadar is excluded. Of the total allocations 78 per cent for federal PSDP for Physical Planning and Housing/ Housing and Works from 1990-2016 were for security agencies and federal civil administration offices and housing and 11 years of these 100 per cent was exclusively for them. The roads in general present a pathetic picture as their photographs on every other page amply illustrate. Depriving people of benefits and yet expecting praise and thankfulness is insanity.
Then he dwells on ‘Deficit in Social Protection’ and we see the story is not different. The Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) was established in 2008 to assist economically stressed families. In 2014-15, a total of 5.046 families received Rs88.491 billion; of this only 188,949 families in Balochistan received Rs3.290 billion a meagre 3.7 per cent. Both Punjab and Sindh’s share was 36.5 and 34.0 per cent respectively. This cannot be explained away just by the smaller population it has; the system doesn’t quite take into consideration the factors which compound poverty in Balochistan. State provided social protection too is warped and hardly helps.
Next on the stand is ‘Services Imbalances’. There are detailed charts and also constitutional provisions that show how Balochistan is put at a disadvantage wilfully and consequently it has no say in its own or Pakistan’s affairs. Denying people authority is the best way of disempowering them. Balochistan gets a lot of officials from other provinces but few from Balochistan get posted here.
A digression here; the plea for imbalance that there aren’t highly educated people in Balochistan is flawed as nothing has been done to provide sound education to the people. All ‘education emergencies’ announced with fanfare are charades in fact. The Higher Education Commission (HEC) too neglects Balochistan; a 2013 report stated that from 2002-03 to 2012-13, it allocated 737 projects worth Rs157, 102 million. Out of these 737 projects, merely 48 projects worth Rs9, 433 million were assigned to Balochistan’s seven universities. Comparatively, the two top beneficiaries of the HEC largesse the National University of Science and Technology and Comsat Institute of Information Technology were granted Rs1,5205m (22 projects) and Rs7,373m (28 projects) respectively which incidentally was Rs13,145 million more than the total allotted to Balochistan.
The last one brought to attention is ‘Representational Imbalances’ and this too shows that Balochistan’s representation is inadequate because of the lesser number of members in the National Assembly and Balochistan Assembly compounded by the large constituencies which are 13 and 9 times, respectively, larger than the average of other three provinces combined. More seats need to be allocated and constituencies made smaller.
However, I do not see much hope in this as those routinely elected are more interested in perks than in serving people.
The evidence presented by Kaiser Bengali shows that there is systematic and wilful discrimination and apathy towards Balochistan with the express purpose of utilizing its resources for benefit of others. It is the seven decades of injustices, both political and economic that have led to insurgencies, and these will only strengthen and deepen because of the absolute absence of hope or that the sane recommendations of this book will be heeded.
There is a Cherokee proverb, “Pay attention to whispers, so we won’t have to listen to screams”. Those who refuse to hear the screams cannot be expected to pay attention to whispers. The irrefutable evidence presented passes the verdict of ‘guilty as charged’ against the state and its establishment for its injustices in Balochistan.
Author: Kaiser Bengali
Oxford Pakistan Paperbacks
Price: Rs 1075