DURING the nine years of the Musharraf regime Balochistan witnessed a remarkable decline in social and development indicators.
The resource-rich province is today marked by a high rate of poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, and infant and maternal mortality. In addition the years of military operations, ill-conceived and discriminatory policies and poor governance has resulted in extreme underdevelopment of the region.
All the glitzy mega-projects launched by the central government in Balochistan, including the Gwadar port, Mirani dam, coastal highway, cantonments and the extraction of copper and gold deposits, do not envisage any local participation and trickle-down effect to the people.
Millions have been spent on a media campaign to prove that the central government is spending billions to develop Balochistan, but years of defective policies has further deteriorated the life of the helpless masses. Meaningful development can only occur if there is political empowerment, local participation, improved healthcare, better educational and employment opportunities, reasonable income levels, and peace in the region.
However, the elite in Islamabad believe in a controlled model of development which is in conflict with the globally accepted idea of participatory development. The establishment's version of development with regard to Balochistan emphasises troop deployments, military and paramilitary cantonments, checkposts and policing to suppress the politically sensitive Baloch people.
The fallout from Islamabad's version of development is obvious. The Human Development Index (HDI) is the best-known measure of development and has three basic dimensions (i) a long healthy life, as measured by life expectancy at birth; (ii) knowledge, as measured by the adult literacy rate; and (iii) a de
cent standard of living, as measured by GDP per capita.
According to the Pakistan National Human Development Report 2003, conducted for the first time by the UN development agency, wide variations in HDI measures exist across the provinces and districts. According to the report “there is considerable variation across provinces with respect to literacy rates which vary from 51 per cent in Sindh to 36 per cent in Balochistan. Among the districts, Jhelum has the highest HDI rank at 0.703 and Dera Bugti the lowest at 0.285. Data indicates the large disparities in terms of human development between the districts of Pakistan”.
Unsurprisingly Balochistan and its districts were assessed to be the worst off in Pakistan. Amongst the top 31 districts with the highest HDI, Punjab had by far the largest share at 59 per cent, while Balochistan lagged far behind at nine per cent. For comparison, Sindh had a 13 per cent share and NWFP 19 per cent.
According to the Social Policy and Development Centre (SPDC) “[a]n overview of the development scene in Balochistan is appalling and the extent of relative deprivation in the province is unspeakable”. 92 per cent of Balochistan's districts are classified as 'high deprivation' compared to 50 per cent in Sindh and 29 per cent in Punjab.
The story at the population level is equally grim. The Pakistan Integrated Household Survey 2001-02 revealed that Balochistan had the most poor (48 per cent of the province's population) and the worst level of rural poverty (51 per cent). According to a study conducted by Dr Talat Anwar, a senior development expert, rural poverty in Balochistan increased 15 per cent between 1999 and 2005. Contrast this with the experience of urban Punjab which saw a nearly four per cent drop in poverty between 1999 and 2005 to stand at 20.6 per cent. Sindh and NWFP also experienced growing poverty over the same period.
The most devastating consequence of underdevelopment in any society is a high death rate. Balochistan has the highest infant and maternal mortality ratio in South Asia. According to a Ministry of Health policy paper, 'Gender awareness policy appraisal 2006', one of the major reasons for this high maternal mortality rate is hunger and malnutrition, which affects 34 per cent of pregnant women.
The infant mortality statistics are equally grim. Successive findings indicate that infant mortality in Balochistan is 130 deaths per 1,000 live births. Compare this to Democratic Republic of Congo's average of 126 and Pakistan's national average of 70.
No good news exists for Balochistan in any development statistic. 25 per cent of the population has access to electricity (national average, 75 per cent). The male literary rate is 18.3 per cent and the female literacy rate seven percent (Punjab, overall 63.6 per cent).
The regional gender disparity in educational institutes is stark. Punjab has 111 vocational institutes for women; Balochistan has one. Only 23 per cent of girls in rural areas are fortunate to be enrolled in primary schools in Balochistan as compared to twice that ratio in rural Punjab. This discriminatory policy is not only resulting in a slowdown of gender empowerment but is affecting the overall development of the province.
Even the educational institutions that do exist suffer from an acute lack of resources. 67 per cent of schools in the province have no proper building; while 60 per cent of primary schools have only one untrained and unqualified teacher. What has grown is the number of religious schools in the province during the tenure of the PML-Q and MMA coalition government.
Deliberately the Baloch youth have been kept deprived of all forms of contemporary education. Compared to the 340 polytechnic, computer science, women vocational institutes and commercial and law colleges in Punjab, Balochistan has only nine such centres, all poorly developed and in urban areas. Hence, rural Baloch youth are completely deprived of practical education.
The systematic denial of basic education and education-related facilities in Balochistan clearly indicates the disrespect and discriminatory policies of Islamabad. The only development Balochistan has witnessed during Musharraf regime is the 62 per cent increase of police stations in the province.n
The writer is a former senator.