A Cry for Justice by Kaiser Bengali is a meticulously crafted book that sheds light on five crucial aspects that contribute to the underdevelopment and poverty of Balochistan: gas resources, financial issues, concerns regarding public services, federal social protection and the structure of electoral representation in Balochistan. Through vivid storytelling, the book unravels the harrowing struggles that have plagued this resource-rich yet poverty-stricken region for decades, setting it apart from other works on the subject.
Dr. Kaiser Bengali fearlessly delves into the persistent problems of Balochistan, presenting them in meticulous detail, using accurate data and figures obtained from reliable sources. His insightful analysis effectively addresses the province’s primary challenges.
According to Dr. Bengali, there is a systematic diversion of Balochistan’s resources to other provinces, resulting in discrimination against the province. This revelation highlights the urgent need for comprehensive attention and understanding in order to promptly address each unresolved issue in Balochistan.
It is disheartening to witness that despite living in the 21st century, Balochistan still grapples with essential human needs such as healthcare, education, and overall human development in a manner reminiscent of medieval times. The province not only lags behind but has also regressed significantly.
Approximately 80% of the population in Balochistan endures abject poverty, with some people residing in basic huts without access to electricity in remote areas. To illuminate their evenings, they rely on antiquated lanterns, struggling to make ends meet with meagre sustenance, sometimes barely managing two or three meals a day. Many parents from lower socio-economic backgrounds are unable to afford quality education for their children due to insufficient income.
Healthcare remains the most pressing challenge for ordinary people, as it persists without a remedy. Tragic instances of patients in rural areas of Balochistan losing their lives due to lack of nearby hospitals or medical facilities are all too common. Even for minor medical conditions, individuals have to travel to Karachi or other cities in Pakistan for treatment. Surprisingly, there are occasions when one can gauge the quality of medical facilities available. Just a few months ago, a photograph circulated widely on social media, capturing a poignant scene in a remote, mountainous region of Balochistan. In the image, three individuals can be seen shouldering the burden of a patient on an ancient, weathered wooden stretcher.
These individuals had to undertake a gruelling journey spanning several miles to reach a doctor located in the suburbs. It is distressing to imagine the regularity with which such scenes of suffering unfold in Balochistan, where access to adequate medical facilities remains scarce. The enduring hardships and misery faced by the oppressed Baloch people persist to this day, much as they did a century ago. It would not be an exaggeration to assert that Balochistan has been subject to long-standing, systemic neglect, with the basic human needs and rights of its inhabitants disregarded.
Furthermore, the voices of those who have valiantly fought for their fundamental rights have been either disregarded or forcibly silenced by those in power.
Kaiser Bengali highlights the persistent disparity and regression in Pakistan’s largest province, Balochistan, attributing it to the legacy of colonial governance. In his book, Bengali presents an insightful account of the province, shedding light on its historical truths.
A notable fact underscored by Bengali is the discovery of gas in Sui in 1952. From 1955, the distribution of gas through pipelines brought clean and safe fuel to millions of households, fostering industrial growth in neighbouring provinces. However, despite this significant development, Balochistan endured nearly three decades without access to gas. It wasn’t until 1984 that gas supply was initiated, albeit limited to the city of Quetta. Alarmingly, the rest of Balochistan remains devoid of this vital resource. The denial of approximately Rs 7.69 trillion in gas-related benefits to Balochistan further underscores the prevailing injustice and the disproportionate advantage gained by other provinces.
Bengali also contends that the lack of transport connectivity in the province is another manifestation of historical neglect. Even today, the main areas of Balochistan lack proper infrastructure, with concrete roads being virtually non-existent.
Similar patterns of marginalisation emerge in the bureaucratic sphere. Bengali draws attention to the insufficient representation of Balochistan in key federal government positions, with a meagre number of senior officers hailing from the province. Furthermore, Balochistan has not seen the appointment of any Baloch Chief Secretaries, highlighting a lack of fair representation in the Federal Civil Service.
Despite having 17 representatives in the 342-member National Assembly, Balochistan’s voice and influence remain subdued, primarily due to its minimal presence in the corridors of power, proportionally incongruous with its demographics. The Balochistan Assembly, in existence for nearly four decades, has seldom operated with true autonomy, as observed in a comprehensive study on the political landscape of the province. More often than not, it serves as a mere rubber stamp, accommodating individuals who are adept at playing puppet roles. Overnight, loyalists ascend to power, using their positions to prioritize personal gain over the public’s interests. The provincial government faces frequent interference, leaving them with limited agency in making crucial decisions.
Ironically, one of the most prevalent and misleading misconceptions is the widespread belief, both within and outside the province, that the local Sardars bear responsibility for the poverty in Balochistan. A false narrative has been propagated, suggesting that the strict laws enforced by the Sardars impede the progress of the region. These Sardars have been portrayed as despotic tyrants solely interested in reducing their subjects to servitude and slavery. However, the reality is quite different, and it appears that this portrayal is nothing more than propaganda aimed at scapegoating the Sardars instead of identifying the true causes behind Balochistan’s unfortunate circumstances.
The Sardari system governs Balochistan, and while a significant number of Sardars collaborate with a corrupt political system, carrying out the orders of shadow authorities, it is important to consider the Makran division as an example. Despite not employing the Sardari system, this division experiences similar hardships and sufferings as other regions in the province.
The path to progress for Balochistan lies in the creation of employment opportunities and providing the population with access to healthcare, education, and other aspects of human development. All that is required is to ensure the political, democratic, and constitutional rights of the Baloch people, granting them the chance to contribute to the national workforce and prosperity.
The system should allow legitimate leadership to operate freely and genuinely represent the interests of the people in the province, rather than attempting to impose counterfeit and spurious leadership. Balochistan now yearns to leave behind its somber era and embrace a future characterized by hope and optimism, driven by various compelling reasons.
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