Role of Armed Forces in the Socioeconomic Development of Balochistan
Balochistan being the largest province of Pakistan, possesses its inherent strengths since the historic times, where it played a central role in international trade routes and politics. It acted as a buffer between major powers. The very basis of Pakistan’s future hinges upon the prosperity, integrity and development of Balochistan, being the heartland of the country. Although the province is rich in mineral resources, it is poor as per the socioeconomic indicators. Despite rich cultural heritage and availability of natural resources in abundance, the province has remained socioeconomically backward in the past. There have been concerted efforts to enhance socioeconomic indicators of the province, however, these efforts met partial success and could not achieve the desired results. Balochistan has recently witnessed greater developmental projects, connectivity and security, which are the vital precursors for development. In a national scenario where agro-industrial zones are saturated with economic competition, Balochistan offers new vistas of investment in the form of regional trade, blue economy, agriculture, mining, tourism and services industries. These potentials, if timely recognized, intelligently resourced and innovatively managed, can attract dynamic investment and human capital. The demographically stable zones even invite the opportunities of developing new industrial towns and markets.
The unrest of the past has now been defeated through various operations. Recently, Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) have gained considerable success in ensuring normalization through cohesive national efforts and by adopting a population-centric approach towards alleviating the sense of deprivation among the Baloch people. Pakistan Army, through an institutional initiative, piloted multiple developmental projects for the uplift of the province in general and the people of Balochistan in particular.
Socioeconomic Measures. Socioeconomic development, the most important measure, is the hallmark of Khushal Balochistan. Army has remained engaged in numerous developmental and socioeconomic uplift projects so as to regain the lost space for further capitalization by the political segment, thus bringing lasting peace and stability in the province.
Following are the initiatives by Pakistan Army/LEAs:
Educational Projects. In order to enhance the educational skills of Baloch youth, Pakistan Army/ LEAs have played a crucial role by taking the lead. Some of the initiatives in the field of education are as follows:
Establishment of Schools/Cadet Colleges. 113 schools are supervised by Army/Frontier Corps and approximately 40,000 students across Balochistan are being educated in these schools. 9 Cadet Colleges (Sui, Pishin, Mastung, Panjgur, Jaffarabad, Kohlu, Turbat, Noshki and Awaran) have been established in the province. More than 2,622 students are getting education in these Cadet Colleges. Besides providing quality education, these colleges are transforming the mindset of the local masses, who are also keen to send their children to these institutions for a better future. Moreover, in the year 2022, for the first time, a girls Cadet College was established in Turbat, which is an infrastructure marvel.
Other Educational Projects. Distinguished educational institutions/programs have been established in the province that are aimed at providing quality education. The important projects are:
▪ Gwadar Institute of Technology (GIT).
▪ Quetta Institute of Medical Sciences (QIMS).
▪ Army Institute of Mineralogy (AIM).
▪ National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Quetta Campus.
▪ Chamalang Balochistan Education Program (CBEP).
▪ Internships for graduates and diploma holders.
▪ 3 years diploma program of Associate Engineering with Strategic Plans Division (SPD).
▪ 9 technical institutes adopted by Army.
Planned Educational Projects. LEAs are playing a key role in bringing quality educational facilities to the province in the future. It includes:
▪ Establishment of Institute of Business Administration (IBA) campus at Quetta.
▪ Defence Housing Authority (DHA) Education City.
▪ Establishment of Dental College.
Health Initiatives. Five Combined Military Hospitals (CMH) located at Quetta, Loralai, Khuzdar, Zhob and Sibbi are providing health facilities to the locals as well. In addition, various health facilities are being spearheaded by Army/LEAs in the province in collaboration with the government of Balochistan. Apart from these health initiatives, Armed Forces are also providing/supervising health facilities as under:
▪ Renovation of District Headquarters Hospitals (DHQs). Major renovation/uplift has been conducted in DHQ Turbat, Awaran, Sibi, Zhob and Dalbadin.
▪ Medical Camps/Tele Medical Centres. Since 2016, 60,000 patients have been treated in 650 free medical camps established by Southern Command/Frontier Corps. Since 2018, Tele Medical Centres are also functional which are providing medical services to far-flung areas through video link. Approximately, 25,000 patients have availed this facility to date.
Accelerated Southern Balochistan Development Package (SBDP). For the socioeconomic development of Southern Balochistan, a number of projects are piloted, out of which SBDP is the most important. Under the umbrella of SBDP, 199 projects will be completed with an estimated cost of Rs. 654 billion. The vital projects of SBDP are:
▪ Additional 1100 kilometers of road infrastructure will further enhance connectivity, which will provide job opportunities to nearly 1.9 million people.
▪ In the agricultural domain, for watering 150,000 acres of land, a reservoir with the capacity of 0.5 million acre feet (MAF) is planned, which will become a source of earning bread for roughly 0.5 million people.
▪ With the initiative of Roshan Pakistan project, 57 percent population of Balochistan has been provided with electricity, which was initially only upto 12 percent. Moreover, availability of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) has been ensured and increased from 61 percent to 100 percent.
UAE Government. Fund for initiatives worth 1 billion rupees was procured through effective diplomacy of Army. The projects completed under this program are:
▪ Dates Processing Plant: Timar Panjgur processes 1500 tons of dates annually.
▪ Sheikh Muhammad Bin Zayed al-Nahyan Institute of Cardiology, Quetta was established.
▪ District Headquarter Hospitals of Zhob, Awaran, Khuzdar, and Panjgur have been uplifted under the same initiative.
912 Projects Under Quick Impact Projects (QIPS). Under the tutelage of Army, 912 projects worth Rs. 160 crore were completed. A few initiatives which were accomplished with Army’s support are:
▪ Clean drinking water projects worth Rs. 8.837 billion.
▪ Border markets in Badin, Chaman and Kech uplifted socioeconomic conditions of the affiliated masses.
▪ Rehabilitation of 2000 families by FC Balochistan (North) in Kahan.
▪ The riddle of Reko Diq was efficiently solved with the resourceful diplomacy of Army. Under the new terms of agreement, 8000 and 12,000 direct and indirect jobs will be created for Baloch natives, respectively.
Induction in Army. According to 2019 statistics, 3,512 candidates were trained for Inter Services Selection Board under the patronage of Army/LEAs and out of them, 887 candidates were selected for induction in the Army as commissioned officers. Approximately, 13,500 soldiers have joined Pakistan Army from 2014-2019 through the provision of special quota from Army for Balochistan.
▪ Major Festivals. Army/LEAs have provided opportunities to the locals to celebrate national days, cultural and regional festivals and events such as rallies, sports tournaments and galas. This has inculcated cohesion and patriotism amongst them.
▪ Youth Engagement. Army/FC has been conducting regular youth engagement campaigns in the fields of education, awareness, social services and extracurricular activities. It enhances their abilities, inculcates patriotism and protects them against hostile narratives. Continuous youth engagement is done by organizing youth seminars, sports events, celebrating ‘A day with Army/FC’, and science exhibitions etc. Balochistan Excellence Awards are endowed in recognition of their services. Senior leadership of Army/FC regularly interacts with the youth to protect them against hostile narratives and prepare them for the future challenges.
Communication Infrastructure. Pakistan Army, Frontier Works Organization (FWO) and FC are constructing state-of-the-art roads under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in Balochistan. They are also supervising and providing security to various communication infrastructure projects to improve regional connectivity. Some of the major projects are:
▪ M-8 and N-85 (Gwadar-Panjgur-Nag-Basima- Surab).
▪ Quetta-Qilla Saifullah-Zhob Road.
▪ Basima-Rago-Khuzdar Road.
▪ Makran Coastal Highway.
Other Development Projects. Some of the important projects which have contributed to the uplift of the province are as under:
▪ Kachi Canal Project.
▪ Chamalang Coal Mine Project.
▪ Kassa Hill Marble Project.
▪ Musa Khel Coal Mine Project.
▪ Gwadar Desalination Plant.
Significance of CPEC and the Role of Pakistan Army. CPEC is a game changer not only for Pakistan but for the entire region. The ultimate beneficiary of CPEC is the province of Balochistan and the local population. China, with the assurance of Pakistan Army, pledged to invest multi-billion dollars under the tutelage of CPEC. A few initiatives with regards to development and progress of CPEC by Pakistan Army are:
▪ Through incessant approach of Army and provincial government, 17 projects under the umbrella of CPEC are bearing fruit, whereas 18 projects are in the process of completion at different stages.
▪ A web of roads, approximately 1500 kilometers, has increased inter and intraprovincial connectivity, wherein traders, people, and farmers etc., have easy access to the main markets of other provinces.
▪ In the power sector, out of 5000 MW electricity to be added to the national grid, 1320 MW power plant has kick-started, generating electricity.
▪ Establishment of Gwadar Deep Sea Port and Special Economic Zones (SEZs) materialized due to the untiring efforts of Army/LEAs.
▪ A 2-star Special Security Division was raised for the security and supervision of CPEC projects.
Balochistan being the largest province of Pakistan, possesses its inherent strengths since the historic times, where it played a central role in international trade routes and politics. It acted as a buffer between major powers. The very basis of Pakistan’s future hinges upon the prosperity...