Balochistan, the southwestern province of Pakistan is hit by drought. “At least 20 of the 33 districts of Balochistan are facing drought where over 100,000 families and 1.7 million livestock have been affected so far,” said Saleem Ahmad Khosa, home minister of the state. Thousands of people were forced to leave their home in Noshki district of the province. Livestock and agriculture, two main sources of household income has been destroyed due to droughts. The province is known as ‘fruit basket of the country’ but this year, the production was damaged as crops like grapes, peaches, pomegranates, and apples are water intensive. The few densely populated districts of the state like Gwadar and Quetta are severely hit by drought, as per the report from the National Drought Monitoring Centre (NDMC).
The state has a history of droughts but in recent years it the problem has only intensified given the effects of climate change. “Learning lessons from history of droughts is critical to help our farmers become resilient to climate-related risks and impacts,” says Nadir Gul Barech, chief executive officer of the Balochistan Rural Support Programme, a local NGO. “Not enough dams and reservoirs have been built to store water in the province that produces more than 50 per cent of Pakistan’s livestock,” he added.
The province is also rich with natural resources like gold, copper, silver, oil, and gas. The province covers 44 percent of Pakistan’s land area but accounts for only 5 percent of its population. The Gwadar port being developed to promote trade and investment is poised to only benefit business elites based in Karachi and political elites based in Islamabad. The Rawalpindi based Pakistan Army also has stakes in the province while top military officers exploit its natural resources for monetary benefits.
Balochs constitute more than half of the state’s population but the political elites of Islamabad have denied their rights for long. Balochistan is known as “Neglected province where a majority of population lacks amenities.”
Moreover, the share of the state in national GDP declined from 4.9 percentages in the mid-1970s to 3.7 percent. The GDP per capita of the state is 740 dollar per year in comparison to 1,577 dollars for Pakistan and 1,748 for Sindh. Both states more than double per capita income in comparison to Balochistan despite the fact that it contributes most to natural resources. The natural resources of the state are exploited by industrialists but the local people do not get a fair share for these resources.
The Baloch nationalists have already waged war against Pakistan’s colonization. The Islamic state has exploited the natural resources of the province and its coastlines. China is developing an economic corridor with investment worth 46 billion dollars but the local citizens have very little stake in the project. Every political party blames the other for the lack of development in the state. The incumbent chief minister of the state blamed the former Nawaz Sharif government for woes of the state. “The previous government must be held responsible over not taking seriously provincial development under CPEC. In the five years, they didn’t complete a single kilometre of road in the entire province and deliberately neglected the least-developed province,” said Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal.
In the year 2018, 119 people were killed in the state including 15 police personnel in conflicts. The province gets little in royalties from gas revenues in comparison to Punjab and Sindh just because it has a little pocket for political bargaining. The heavy-handedness of Pakistan military has led to the death of hundreds of civilians and has also caused mass displacements. Thousands of civilians have been ailed and abused by armed forces for no mistake. As per reports, the family members of these people were raped by officials of Pakistan army. “Baloch nationalists, militants or even innocent bystanders are picked up, disappeared, tortured, mutilated and then killed” says a report by BBC. According to journalist Malik Siraj Akbar, as of May 2015, “dozens of people are losing their lives every day” in “extra judicial killings committed by the Pakistani security forces” in the province of Balochistan.
The economic inequality coupled with natural calamities and excessive violence by the Pakistani state and Army will further alienate the Baluchi people. The Baloch nationalism will be fuelled as the atrocities by the state increases on poor Baloch people. The crimes committed by the Pakistani state is pushing the state towards an armed rebellion by common people of Balochistan.