DERA GHAZI KHAN: The residents of mountainous tribal area of Rajanpur and Dera Ghazi Khan district say they have high hopes from Chief Minister Usman Buzdar to develop the poverty-stricken areas during his tenure.

Local Government Assistant Director Malik Ramzan says the tribal areas of Dera Ghazi Khan and Rajanpur consist of 10 union councils -- nine in Dera Ghazi Khan and one in Rajanpur, while the population is 250,000.

Celebrated Baloch poet from tribal area advocate Chacha Allah Bakhsh Buzdar says credit for the selection of Buzdar for the provincial chief executive goes to the selector alone. He told Dawn Buzdar’s selection created hopes among us that the area would see turnaround in the coming years. Earlier, the people would think of annexation of trans-Indus districts of Dera Ghazi Khan and Rajanpur with Balochistan under a new social contract. He said they were watching the recent developments if Mr Buzdar wanted to sabotage the demands of people (to be part of Balochistan) or he really meant the development of the area.

He demanded that an independent commission consisting of writers and intellectuals from Punjab be formed to ascertain the causes of backwardness of the tribal areas of Rajanpur and Dera Ghazi Khan “as our representatives always used to blame the power corridors of Punjab for our backwardness while the Punjabis blamed us for our backwardness”.

Chacha Buzdar said that in the 1880s, nomadic Baloch tribes of Dera Ghazi Khan and Rajanpur came under the rule of the Raj much to the delight of tribal elders who were bestowed with magisterial powers and jobs in the newly established Border Military Police (BMP). Those elders were also given agriculture land in Mian Chunnu and residential land at Dera Ghazi Khan city besides a handsome monthly stipend.

Before the annexation of tribal areas of Dera Ghazi Khan and Rajanpur, Doda Khan Mari, Akbar Bugti and Jamal Leghari had expressed their written desire regarding the annexation of tribal areas with Balochistan on Nov 26, 1946.

In all colonial arrangements regarding the provision of financial and legal incentives to tribal elders, and even after that in the newly-created Pakistan, common tribesmen remained deprived of civic facilities even though Muhammad Ali Jinnah had given written assurance being the head of the state regarding the development of the areas, he added.

The Baloch poet says the development starts with education, so there should be a higher secondary school for boys and a girls’ high school in every union council of tribal area. He suggested there be small dams to store the water of hill torrents. Regarding the communication resources, he said tribal areas should be connected with each other through good road networks. He demanded that the chief minister issue gazette notification to reinstate tribal area tehsil ‘Sulaiman’. Earlier, the chief minister Buzdar remained nazim of the tribal area tehsil during the Musharaf-era. Later, the status was cancelled.

Hassan Khosa, retired BMP officer of tribal area, said the tribal areas needed to be provided communication resources to link the mountainous tribal area within and with the district. He said he feared drought was looming on the horizon of the tribal areas as it had not received seasonal rains for some last years. He suggested sweet water zones be established in the tribal areas to save life in mountains of Sulaiman range otherwise drought would make the life harder. He also suggested that the government launch massive livestock and forestry projects in the area.

Brother of chief minister Jafar khan Buzdar, who is Dera Ghazi Khan district council member, said that his brother would try his best to develop the tribal areas and bring them on a par with settled areas. He said the priority areas of development were the provision of civic facilities like drinking water, roads, hospitals and colleges in tribal area.

One tribal woman, who is working as social worker and maternity supervisor, spoke to Dawn on the condition of anonymity (as disclosing her name publicly is against the tribal norms) that the provision of water was need of the tribal areas. Tribeswomen would fetch unsafe water from remote areas, which created social problems as well as health problems for the consumers.

She said provision of safe water would change the health map of the tribal areas. She said the death rate from maternity related cases was higher here from settled areas which could be dropped by establishing maternity homes at every village. She said most of the patients died while on way to health facilities in settle areas. She said that womenfolk of tribal areas should be given economic independence by making the most of their embroidery and other skills.

Sher Dil Gorchani, a retired government employee of tribal area for Tuman Gorchani, told Dawn the government should take interest in the construction of Morounj Dam. He said the water reservoir would make the lives of tribesmen of Tuman Gorchani, easy.

The tribal areas have several tourist destinations, which have not been developed over the time.

Mr Gorchani said there was a historical ancient hill resort called ‘Marri’ in the mountains of Tuman Gorchani which had potential to attract local and foreign tourists. He demanded that the chief minister establish a Marri Development Authority for the organised development of areas. He added that there were other hilly areas which could be developed as resorts and a few of them were ‘Yak Bai’ in Tuman Leghari and ‘Mubarki’, ‘Jhandi’ and ‘Bail Pathar’ in Tuman Buzdar, He said ‘Bail Pathar’ was the highest summit in Punjab.

He said the tribal areas of trans Indus districts had a great archeology value and a few ancient sites were in Harrand Fort. He said certain areas had ponds of perennial water in which small crocodiles and fish were found.

Journalist Saeed Ahmed Mazari from Tuman Mazari told Dawn the pipeline of natural gas were passing by Rujhan tribal seat of Mazari tribe but the area was deprived of the facility.

Sohail Leghari, resident of hill station Fort Munro, said that Fort Munro was facing the lack of water. He said that only source of water - Fort Munro lake - had become a pool of contaminated water because of haphazard and uncontrolled construction activities in the area which had spoiled its natural beauty. The lake used to house colourful fish and transparent water. The lake had its filtration system established by the Raj rulers. He demanded mega sewerage and drinking water plans to keep the hill station clean and green.

Government people, however, have their own figures to show that the areas have been under development programmes.

Malik Aftab, community development officer at the Tribal Area Development Programme, said that 19,700 solar light plants had been distributed among tribesmen and 150 kilometre road was constructed in different areas in the last few years. He said according to the census, the areas had 2.4 million short animal sheep and goats which highlighted the need for a veterinary dispensary network in the areas. He said the tribal areas needed cultural value based development so that their natural beauty and cultural norms be preserved.

Published in Dawn, September 20th, 2018