For Balochistan and for his own standing, perhaps it is time for the new Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri to give the Pakistani public a new story about Balochistan. He could make a strong break with the previous government by being the lead character in this new story.
A recent meeting with his inner circles suggested he is a man with a new vision to change the image of Balochistan from a geo-political liability to geo-economic asset. As part of his endeavour, he would soon unveil some flagship projects to accomplish within 12 to 14 months time-frame.
The first is Grameen Bank project on Bangladesh model with clear goal to focus on the poor and the vulnerable segment of Balochistan’s society: It’s woman population. Women will be given cheap loans with minimum interest so as to generate employment and tap into their entrepreneurial capabilities. As currently there is no cheaper loans available and the going rate of interest is around 17 percent so cheap loans of around 1.5 percent rate will bring in revolution in women’s lives in Balochistan.
Another exciting project being envisioned is launch of train service in Quetta linking the northern and southern suburbs of the city for the first time. Since there is already a train service between Quetta and Chaman, it can easily and cheaply be extended to other remote suburbs. This will change the landscape and the face of the Quetta City.
As part of Quetta beautification programme, the Chief Minister wants a bit of Lahore solution to the city’s congestion problem: construction of fly overs and expanding the width of existing road infrastructure. Quetta’s infrastructure was meant for few thousands residents but it’s population has grown to nearly 2.5 million people today. Successive governments have not invested in improving the infrastructure of the city, unfortunately.
Balochistan Bank is another flagship project that the new Chief Executive wants to establish. At the moment, there are Khyber Bank, Punjab Bank and Sindh Bank but no Balochistan Bank. It is hoped that with Balochistan Bank, the government will have added capability to fund some projects that have no sponsors and funding at the moment.
Water scarcity has afflicted Balochistan severally and this is why Mr Zehri has planned to have water salination plants for catering drinking water needs of some of the residents from Gawadar to Zhob, along with dozens of new dams to replenish under ground water reservoir of the province. But this is hugely ambitious task to achieve.
Another challenge is unemployed youth and the threat of their falling prey to terrorism and extremism. Nawab Zehri has instructed his team to come up with a plan to provide with jobs to the educated and stipends to the jobless youth. Some estimate suggest more than 25,000 educated youth have no aspirational opportunities in Balochistan.
But the biggest challenge for Chief Minister Zehri is checking corruption. It (corruption) is eating at the vitals of Balochistan polity and society. He has envisioned to establish a provincial accountability mechanism with clear mandate to come hard on corruption and mal-practices in government and bureaucracy. With almost two and half years to go for 2018 elections, Mr Zehri would have limited time to showcase his government’s performance. His real test lies in delivering on his vision. His time starts now.
The Author is analyst and hails from Balochistan.