Karachi-based researcher and a Viewpoint contributor, Mohammad Nafees, has prepared a report on the Balochistan situation. The report was commissioned by the Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS:www.crss.pk). The Viewpoint is serializing this report with author’s and CRSS’s permission
Balochistan, despite being the largest province of Pakistan in terms of area, has the lowest population among all other provinces of Pakistan. According to the census of 1998, it had eight million inhabitants constituting nearly 5 percent of the total population of the country. Majority of the population consists of Baloch and Pashtoon tribes, though there is another tribe called Brohvi or Brahui that makes up nearly 20 percent of the population, but the census normally combines it with Baloch linguistic group. The linguistic composition of Balochistan is based on Balochi (55 percent), Pushto (30 percent), Sindhis (6 percent), Punjabis (3 percent), Seraikis (2 percent) and Urdu speaking (1 percent). Quetta is the capital and the main commercial city of the province with Pashtoons having the largest population (30 percent) and dominance over the business activities of the city. The Balochs come as the second largest group with a share of 28 percent of the city's population and Punjabis with 16 percent population are the third largest group residing in Quetta. Urdu speaking people also enjoy a share of 6 percent of population while Punjabis and Urdu speaking population is normally reffered to as the settlers (Refer Table 1). Hazara community also has a significant presence in Quetta but they are not explicitly identified in the census. They are the Persian-speaking people who migrated from central Afghanistan in the nineteenth century. The website of Hazara Democratic Party claims that Hazaras make one third of the total population of Quetta city . Even if it is taken as an over quoted figure, the census is silent in this regard. More than two million Afghan refugees are also settled in Quetta and surrounding areas.
Sindh and Balochistan are the two provinces of Pakistan where diversity in ethnic composition is explicitly noticeable. In Balochistan, there are some districts where Baloch community has a very low or almost insignificant presence. Killa Abdullah, Killa Saifullah, Pishin, Loralai, Musakhel, Ziarat, Zhob, and Sibi-Hernai are such districts where the Baloch are almost non-existent (Table 1). The percentage of Baloch population in other provinces is also proportionately lower than their percentage of the total population of the country. The Baloch residing in Balochistan make nearly 4 percent of the total population of Pakistan while those living in Sindh are nearly 2.5 percent. In Punjab they are 0.6 percent, and in KPK they are only 0.01 percent of the total population. Among all big cities of Pakistan, Karachi is the only city where the Baloch have the largest concentration of their population and as per some estimation there are more Baloch in Karachi than in Balochistan. Even in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, the percentage of Baloch population is merely 06 percent. This shows that the Baloch are less integrated with the rest of the country in comparison with the people hailing from other provinces.
Table 1. Ethnic divide of Balochistan
Pashto-speakers inhabit the districts of the northern and northeastern parts of the province, bordering Afghanistan and FATA. Brahui-speakers occupy a north-south corridor along the centre of the province, while the Balochi¬speakers are divided between the west and southwest and the east. There are large concentrations of Sindhi-speaking people in the southeast (Lasbela) and the Kachchi plains area.
However, most of the ethnic communities living in Balochistan face one or the other type of violence targeted against them. Punjabis and Urdu speaking people regarded as settlers are normally victims of target killings in the province. Hazara people face sectarian violence because of their religious beliefs as they belong to Shia sect of Islam . Baloch and Brahui people are being abducted and their dead bodies are mysteriously dumped at a deserted place. The sudden influx of Afghan nationals (mostly Pashtoons), first in 80's during Afghan Jihad and later in 2001 as a result of the US war on terror in Afghanistan, brought to the region the culture of drugs and terrorism. The repeated claims of the US intelligence agencies of the existence of Quetta Shura in Balochistan pose a serious threat.
Balochistan, among all the provinces, has the lowest literacy rates . While Pakistan's literacy rate is 52 percent, the literacy rate of Balochistan is only 34 percent. Punjab is the only province of Pakistan having a literacy rate of 57 percent that is higher than the national literacy rate. Following Punjab is Sindh with 50 percent literacy rate and KPK with 49 percent. Female literacy rate in Pakistan is 48 percent while both Balochistan and KPK have a very dismal female literacy rate (27 percent) compared to the other two provinces Punjab and Sindh that have 53 and 42 percent respectively.
Nature has gifted Balochistan with vast mineral resou rces that include Coal, Copper, Chromites, Barytes, Sulphur, Marble, Iron Ore, Quartzite, Limestone, and Sulphur. Except coal and copper, most of these minerals remain unexplored for various reasons. Natural gas is another natural resource that the province is rich in and contributes a major part in the national economy. However, all these explorations have encountered different kinds of crisis. Sui and other gas fields are time and again affected by law and order situation, especially the attacks by Baloch separatists.
The largest copper and gold project in Balochistan, “Saindak Copper Gold Project” in Chaghi also went through different bureaucratic and political inefficiency problems before reaching its completion stage in 1995. Now with the production on, the project pays an annual rent of US$0.5 million to SML (Saindak Metal Limited).
Another major mining project that has attracted nearly US $3.3 billion of foreign investment is the Reko Diq Mining Proeject. It is also located in the north-western district of Chaghi, Balochistan. However, the project went through criticisms and legal battles before the Balochistan Government cancelled the license of the company that had invested nearly $220m and four years on feasibility study program to determine the mineral reserves of the project. This is a reminder of the Dhobal Power Project of India that was awarded to Enron Company of the USA by the Congress government as an attempt to liberalize the Indian economy. It generated a series of political and technical criticism on the suitability of the project leading the company to renegotiate the agreement in 1995. As a repercussion, India faced harsh reaction of the global business community and sharp decline in the foreign direct investment that continued for years (Graph 1). What positive or negative impact this decision of the Balochistan government will have on the economy of the province and the country is beyond assessment at this stage.
Gwadar port is another addition to the economic growth of Balochistan as well as Pakistan. This deep-sea port was inaugurated by the Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz on 20 March 2007. It was a great development initiative in Balochistan to help improve the local economy. Gwadar is located near the entrance of the Straits of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, which holds close to three-fifth of the world's crude oil reserves and almost half of the world's proven gas reserves. This is Pakistan's third harbour after Karachi and Bin Qasim. Under the financial agreement of over US $248 million signed with the Government of China in August 2001, US $198 million was funded by China through a grant, soft loan and buyers' credit, and the rest by Pakistan. This port is to be developed into a storage and distribution center for transit trade from Central Asia and Western China, transhipment cargo of the region, and domestic freight. The Port of Singapore Authority (PSA), which runs ports in more than 10 countries, was contracted to manage the port on a build-operate-transfer basis for a 40-year concession period.
Despite all these resources, the economic indicators of Balochistan fall in the lowest category compared to other provinces. The poverty rate in Balochistan is as high as 47 percent and the total literacy rate is as low as 34 percent against the national poverty rate of 24 percent and literacy rate of 52 percent. According to some estimation, Balochistan fares the lowest in terms of education, health, water, and sanitation indicators.
A study carried out by the World Bank in 2008 indicated that till the time of submitting the report, not enough oil discoveries were made in Balochistan and the reserves at Sui were depleting fast. According to their study, these reserves will be completely consumed by 2015. The Uch reserves were also reported to have less than half of what was remained in Sui. As a result, Balochistan's share in national production was dropped from 56 percent in
1995 to 25 percent in 2005 .Moreover the report narrated:
Nearly one third of rural population neither had land nor crops or livestock. Poverty is lowest among the crop and fruit farmers and highest for livestock herders. In addition, among the group of households without crops and livestock, landless families are much poorer than landowning families. More generally, poverty is linked to rural incomes and assets, but it declines noticeably only at relatively high levels of 7 production and ownership.
Entrepreneurship, as per the 2001-2003 Economic Census, was also found lacking in the province. Out of 62,000 business establishments only 18,000 were found in the rural areas. Most inhabitants of villages had to rely on subsistence agriculture and animal husbandry. Only 15 percent of rural households owned a shop or business in Balochistan in 2004/05, the lowest ratio of any province and only half the share in the rest of Pakistan.
Another problem that the report highlights is the lack of basic services (security, water, power, and roads) that discourage the expansion of enterprises in the province. The higher rate of illiteracy among the labor force renders them unsuitable for the type of skills a modern economy requires. Even Quetta, the main commercial city of Balochistan, that claims to have nearly 62 percent of literacy rate, stands lowest among all Pakistani cities in the overall business index.
The Hub Industrial Estates was a good initiative to have modern businesses established in an area that falls within the boundary of Balochistan province and is close to Karachi, the largest commercial city of Pakistan. It attracted the business community from Karachi to establish their businesses in Hub where most of the labor force that they hired also belonged to Karachi. Is it the poor literacy rate, the lower productivity of the local labor or a discriminative attitude of the employers that deprive the people of Balochitan of such opportunities? This is a question that needs an in-depth study. The World Bank report makes a comment about the productivity of the workers in Balochistan that says: “The quality of employment is worse in Balochistan than in other provinces. Workers produce about one quarter less than workers in NWFP and Punjab, and over one third less than workers in Sindh.” 
- Pakistan Balochistan Economic Report – From periphery to core – Vol. II, World Bank, May 2008 – Page 143.
The pro-Taliban elements are active in the province whereas sectarian groups have been targeting members of the Shia community,
particularly the Persian-speaking Hazaras. Such sectarian attacks are on the rise occurring mainly in the provincial capital, Quetta. The
pro-Taliban Islamist groups are attacking those who act contrary to their interpretation of Islam.
- http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2007\06\12\story_12-6-2007_pg7_14 (Balochistan home to lowest-literacy rate population in Pakistan)
- Pakistan Balochistan Economic Report – From periphery to core – Volume II, World Bank, May 2008 – Page 58)
- Ibid, Pp 53
- Ibid, Pp 105
- Pakistan Balochistan Economic Report – From periphery to core – Volume II, World Bank, May 2008 – Page 84)
- Ibid, Pp 53