Building Balochistan: Challenges and triumphs for Pakistan Navy

There are long straight roads and where there isn't arid land, there is the sea. A half-buried stone or rock...
Published April 16, 2014
—Photo by author
—Photo by author

There are long straight roads and where there isn't arid land, there is the sea. A half-buried stone or rock makes you wonder whether it is a milestone or a headstone for a grave.

There are plenty of graves near the Jinnah Naval Base (JNB) in Ormara that date back to even before the setting up of the base here on June 22, 2000. But now there are also vital signs in the shape of a hospital, school, college and industrial home.

The smell of antiseptic fills the air at PNS Darmaan Jah, as Amina Bibi argues with one of the staff.

“See my swollen ankles. You expect me to wander around this entire building?” she asks before turning to a sympathetic ear.

“I was born in Manora the year Pakistan and India first went to war. And I was married and brought here to Ormara when we went to battle again. Now I am a tired old woman with nine grownup children and plenty of ailments and conditions, which are getting to bit out of hand for me. I have diabetes and kidney stones along with so many other problems and these people have built such a big hospital here that going from one corridor to the other and climbing up and down the stairs to see one specialist or another or get some or the other test done just might kill me!” she grumbles.

What the woman doesn't realise is that she is one of the lucky few to be living near the JNB. The navy besides building a base in Ormara is also looking to develop the entire area and extend facilities for the local residents.

—Video by author

Darmaan Jah in Balochi means a place for cure and healing,” says Lt Cmdr Rizwan Ahmed, the acting commanding officer at the hospital who also happens to be a surgical specialist here.

“We have a daily patient flow of about 150 to 200 at our OPD. These are all local people coming here from Ormara city, Pasni and Gawadar who are suffering from various problems such as skin and eye diseases and oral health issues as they are addicted to ghutka. Still, we are trying to spread awareness about it, which is slowly showing results. As for the navy patients, we only get 15 to 20 at the most in one day,” he adds.

A view of a shop at the CCWA Industrial Home. —Photo by author
A view of a shop at the CCWA Industrial Home. —Photo by author

Nearby is the Coastal Command Women Association (CCWA) Industrial Home which also houses a beauty parlour.

The place was set up around two-and-a-half years ago and the centre remains open from 2.30pm to 5.30pm every day.

Not all women who do needlework come here though as the material for the work is provided to them at home where they can work in peace and at their own pace.

Still the centre has those women coming there who are learning a certain craft.

These and the beauty parlour beauticians also include school teachers as the timing suits them as well.

Meanwhile, the end of school bell is about to ring at the Bahria Model School and Cadet College in Ormara. The students are already in the midst of packing their bags. Two teachers in black walk the corridors reminiscing over their journey up till here.

Yasmin Musa, vice principal of the junior section and Bilour Jan, vice principal of the senior section first joined the school after passing their Matric. “We have been with the school for 10 years now. We joined in 2004 after doing our Matric,” says Yasmin.

“Today, we have both done our Master's and feel proud to be contributing towards the cause of education for our community. We are both originally from Ormara but to do Intermediate we went to Pasni, to do our graduation we headed to Gawadar and we did our Master's from Quetta,” informs Bilour Jan.

“Bahria Model School is a great school if only the children could benefit from it,” says she before going on to explain the biggest issue faced by the students of the school – transport.

“It is a major issue coming in the way of children's education. They travel here from afar. It is two-and-a-half kilometers from here to Ormara city anyway but many live even further away than that. We don't have too many resources but we provide transport for all the female students of the school and for the junior section boys of classes one to five,” says Bilour Jan.

“As for the others, they have to come here and go back on foot or arrange for their own transport,” she adds.

The school is co-education and girls outnumber boys by a 60:40 ratio.

Most of the teachers are also female and they hail from the local community though there are also some senior ones from other parts of the country coming here to train the others. “The standard of the school and college is at par with the Bahria school and college in Karachi.

Girls outnumber boys at Bahria Model School, Ormara. —Photo by author
Girls outnumber boys at Bahria Model School, Ormara. —Photo by author

"We follow the same syllabus though classes nine and ten at the school are affiliated with the Balochistan Board and Intermediate is affiliated with the Federal Board," says the school principal Lt Cmdr Mohammad Iftikhar Khan.

The school also has a CNS Adopt a Child scheme where PN officers, CPOs and sailors contribute some money to sponsor a child's education for one year. “Currently there are some 54 local children in the school who are being sponsored this way but who they are is a secret so that no child feels inferior,” he points out.

Older boys walk back home after attending their academic institution. —Photo by author
Older boys walk back home after attending their academic institution. —Photo by author

Meanwhile in the Cadet College the first year classes for 2014 have already begun. This is the first batch of students at the college and the classes bear the sign 'Pioneer class'.

The next batch will be the promoted class 10 from the school. Commodore Fayyaz Malik, principal of the Cadet College, says that they had 25 seats for Intermediate for which they received 970 applications.

“We took in students from all over Pakistan, from Kashmir to Balochistan. The students know that all will be treated here the same. You can't build an educational institution by just constructing a cement structure. There has to be a foundation, a tradition and a culture of learning,” he points out.

What the Pakistan Navy has been doing for the area locals in Ormara, they are also extending to other areas in Balochistan where they have a port or unit. Jiwani and Gawadar for example, have model schools, medical facilities with free dispensaries and industrial homes, too, not to mention an FM radio station.

Though these establishments aren't as big as the ones in Ormara they are still something. The doctors working at the medical facilities also organise free medical camps at least thrice a year. And the navy plans to extend these facilities to Pasni and Turbat as well.