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Letter: Higher Poverty Incidence in Balochistan‏

According to the geological survey of Pakistan, out of 50 minerals extracted nationally, 40 are obtained from Balochistan. The province has more than 200 million metric tons of coal deposits, one billion metric tons of copper, 2.5 million metric tons marble, 300 million ounces of gold and 1.5 billion tons of granite. It has the largest range-land for livestock grazing, over 750 km of coastline that is rich with fishery and for decades it has supplied cheap natural gas to the industrial areas of Pakistan.

Despite being resource rich, the province has acquired the status of a “lagging region” where living standards and social indicators are amongst the lowest in the country.

The real problem in Balochistan is poverty and it may be the biggest cause of violence here. Despite being the lowest populated province, more than 52%of the population lives below the poverty line, the literacy rate is around 29% female primary school enrolment is barely 20% and nearly one-third of the population is unemployed.

The province has Pakistan’s most anemic growth record, worst infrastructure, worst water crises and weakest fiscal base. It has highest poverty, lowest social indicators and weakest state institutions.

Sui gas brought an industrial revolution in Pakistan but Balochistan still lacks an industrial base which is the single biggest cause of unemployment in the province. The natural gas was discovered in Balochistan in 1952 but still its many districts remain deprived of gas transmission facility. According to an estimate the province produces natural gas worth Rs 85 billion annually but gets only Rs 7 billion as royalty from federal government.

The incidence of poverty in Balochistan is higher than any other province, despite the fact that it is endowed with reserves of gas, coal, gold and copper. Only 20% of people here have an access to safe drinking water compared to 86% in the rest of Pakistan. Village electrification is only 25% compared to 75% in the rest of the country. Only 6% of the land is cultivable and productivity is low because of the arid conditions.

Balochistan is Pakistan’s most resource-rich province. Yet, it is also Pakistan’s poorest province. It is an irony that a land can be so blessed with natural resources and be one that has long provided the nation with oil, gas and power to keep its economic engine running, but its own people are still dying as a result of hunger, malnutrition, lack of food, water and every basic facility.

Riffat Wahab Baloch

Published in The Balochistan Point on January 4, 2015

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this letter are those of the author and The Balochistan Point not necessarily agrees with them.

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