Home Editorial Editorial: The Neglect of Balochistan

Editorial: The Neglect of Balochistan

If the government wishes to avail the economic benefits of Balochistan’s assets, it must first ensure security and development for the province

by Editorial

File photo. Banaras Khan—AFP

Earlier this week, security forces thwarted a militant assault on a naval airbase near Turbat, Balochistan, killing all four attackers. According to a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), one soldier embraced martyrdom during the assault, which was claimed by the Majeed Brigade of the banned Balochistan Liberation Army. Ahead of the official version of the military’s media wing, eyewitnesses told media the attack on PNS Siddique included several explosions as well as gunfire, indicating the threat posed to Pakistan’s strategic assets by resurgent terrorism.

The prevailing terrorist wave’s focus on Balochistan, in addition to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, has been linked to the province’s strategic location for transnational trade, energy, gas and oil pipelines. Unfortunately, despite its geographical importance, Balochistan has lagged behind the rest of Pakistan in development, posting the country’s worst indicators of road and rail infrastructure, education and health facilities. The threat posed by militants make the implementation of transnational pipeline projects a tough ask, while some of successive governments’ apathy can be attributed to the grievances of the Baloch, who are demanding an end to extrajudicial killings and abductions.

Protesters in Balochistan cite the constant sense of intimidation imposed by security forces and agencies through numerous checkposts as a major hurdle to peace of mind. Similarly, they point to the bulk of the provincial budget’s allocation to security, channeled through the Frontier Constabulary, as stalling development work. Additionally, there are widespread allegations of state intervention in almost all aspects of Balochistan’s administrative and political affairs, including curbs on freedom of association and expression, and persistent calls of justice for victims of terrorist attacks.

Amidst these worrying developments, a major challenge facing Pakistan is converting its strategic assets in Balochistan into economic opportunities, and opening the province to international trade and investment. Ensuring security and development would be an essential first step to achieving these goals.

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