Geologists from the United States are reported to have discovered vast mineral wealth in Afghanistan, conceivably enough to turn the impoverished country into one of the most lucrative mining centres in the world.

Nearly $1 trillion worth of mineral deposits have been estimated which include iron, copper, cobalt and some other critical industrial metals like lithium.

Geologists are also said to be optimistic about large gold deposits in Pashtun areas of southern Afghanistan which borders Pakistan's province of Balochistan.

Balochistan is said to be full of untapped mineral wealth. It is an irony that the largest province is a picture of neglect to date.

No serious effort was ever made to exploit its natural resources.

Instead, it was exploited the other way — both by all succeeding governments and the tribal chiefs. Governments had been unable to do much for digging out the mineral treasure for want of financial resources, and the required technological know-how.

As such, the situation remained as it was in 1947, barring the discovery and development of gas fields in the Sui area.

Since adhocism has been the hallmark of every government, no long-term planning was initiated to unearth the hidden and buried wealth that could change the destiny of the people of the province and the country at large.

Out of the billions of dollars that the federation has received as loans, grants and aid from its lenders/donors over the past six decades, no substantial amount of money has ever been earmarked for the exploitation of natural resources.

No such urge or priority on the part of the federation was ever reflected in the Annual Development Programmes, the Five-Year Plans or in the long-term economic strategies.

Barring the Oil and Gas Development company, other establishments like the Mineral Development Corporation proved to be mere formalities.

Now the 18th Amendment in the Constitution has given the provinces, among other things, rights over their resources.

But the gigantic task of exploiting mineral resources cannot be accomplished by a province on its own.

When the federation has been unable to do much in this regard over a long period of time, how could a province, with its limited resources, be expected to surmount the challenge?

Unless the mineral resources of the country are exploited to the optimum level, the menace of poverty, backwardness, unemployment and all other economic ills will continue to haunt the people of Pakistan in general and those of Balochistan in particular.

The young and educated leaders of public opinion in Balochistan are expected to come out of the centuries-old tribalism and play a constructive role in changing the destiny of their people in the rapidly-changing world of today.

EHTESHAM SIDDIQUI
Islamabad

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