Balochistan issue

Fida Bazai
The Balochistan problem is spinning out of Pakistan’s control. Islamabad does not have any clear long-sighted strategy to tackle the Balochistan crisis. It still relies on a myopic military plan. The situation is getting worst and exacerbating with every passing day as Islamabad couldn’t come out with a tangible policy to access Baloch nationalists. This situation of increasing uncertainty has profoundly affected trade and business in Quetta. Pakistan civilian government has given up on the Balochistan issue and left it at the mercy of intelligence and military. The track record of these two institutions on conflict resolution is not impressive. All sections of Pakistan’s domestic or foreign policies under the auspices of army and intelligence have always been counter-productive. International pressure Pakistan’s financial and emotional investment in Kashmir and Afghanistan for the last three decades has resulted in chaos and anarchy in Pakistan. Both dimensions of Pakistan’s foreign policy were undisputedly under army control. Pakistan doesn’t only face a mounted international pressure on both issues, but also suffering from an insurmountable series of religious and nationalist insurgencies. It shows that our armed forces don’t have any prudent approach to political problems. Unfortunately, Balochistan, which is the largest poverty stricken province with abundant resources, is falling in the domain of military. If Pakistan’s civilian government doesn’t come out with a comprehensive political solution to the Balochistan issue, it will reach to an irreconcilable position. It is time to confess publicly and deliver practically to reduce the misery of the people of Balochistan. They have been deliberately kept backwards and at the disposal of Nawabs and Sardars. The Government has neither established good institutions nor provided any health facilities. The ratio of poverty is exceedingly high and chances of employment are extremely low. If there is any position, it is filled by any candidates from outside of Balochistan. Even the ordinary jobs of clerks, peons and drivers are allocated to non-local people. The young section of the population, who is graduating now or graduated within the last few years, has increasingly felt these severe discriminations. It is significant to understand that the current insurgency is driven by the youth force of Baloch. The University of Balochistan is the epicentre of all anti-state activities. Insurgency The present insurgency is led by Berhamdagh Bugti, who is the source of eminent aspiration for young Baloch. Another important dimension of the movement is the participation of female youngsters. This is the first time that Baloch girls are actively participating in the movement and wholeheartedly supporting a nationalist demand of independence. The central government has to approach Baloch nationalist parties before it become very difficult to reconcile them. As a confidence building measure the government should stop intelligence operations, release missing people, announce new packages for Balochistan and execute them fairly. It is the government’s last chance to sincerely approach Baloch leaders and take them in confidence as well as award them some extra advantages to reduce their sense of deprivation. It is politically important and strategically significant to understand the composition of Balochistan. The eastern part of Balochistan is inhabited by Baloch people, but Quetta and the West of Balochistan exclusively consist of Pakhtun population. The award of extra favours to the Baloch should not be at the expense of the Pakhtuns in the province, who are currently peaceful and religiously abiding law and order. The packages and jobs should be announced from Islamabad and particularly for the backward areas of Baloch. There should not be any extra-leverage in the present setup to disturb other peaceful segments of society. For instance, Islamabad can announce the establishment of colleges and universities in the Baloch area and then preferably recruit Baloch people for most of the positions. Similarly, more hospitals and health institutions should be established and then staffed by local people. It is, however, extremely unfair to other nationalities, particularly Pakhtuns, who constitute a big chunk of the province population, to be ignored or marginalised at the expense of the Baloch people. It is the federal government’s responsibility to avoid any clash among the resident ethnic groups in Balochistan and bring deprived Baloch youth in the mainstream national politics.

Education Emergency Pakistan

Only 35 per cent of school children, aged 6-16, can read a story, while 50 per cent cannot read a sentence
Today, Pakistan is crippled by an education emergency that threatens tens of millions of children.

No country can thrive in the modern world without educated citizens.

But the emergency has disastrous human, social and economic consequences, and threatens the security of the country.

2011 is Pakistan’s Year of Education.

It’s time to think again about Pakistan’s most pressing long-term challenge.

The economic cost of not educating Pakistan is the equivalent of one flood every year. The only difference is that this is a self-inflicted disaster.

One in ten of the world’s out-of-school children is a Pakistani. That is the equivalent of the entire population of Lahore.

There is a zero per cent chance that the government will reach the millennium development goals by 2015 on education. On the other hand, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are all on their way to achieving the same goals. India’s improvement rate is ten times that of Pakistan, Bangladesh’s is twice that of Pakistan.

But, despite this gloomy situation, determined efforts can show results in only two years. What is required is an additional spending of Rs.100 billion, a 50 per cent increase over current spending.

Pakistanis have a constitutional right to universal education, a little discussed or known fact of the law. What has been overlooked in the discourse on the 18th Amendment is that education has now become a right and no longer a privilege as it was previously. Article 25A sets up a possible scenario where a citizen can take the government to court for not providing them access, or even be the grounds for a suo moto action.

At current rates of progress, no person alive today will see a Pakistan with universal education as defined in our constitution. Balochistan would see it in 2100 or later.

Just one year of education for women in Pakistan can help reduce fertility by 10 per cent, controlling the other resource emergency this country faces.

There are 26 countries poorer than Pakistan but send more of their children to school, demonstrating the issue is not about finances, but will and articulating demand effectively. It is too easy, and incorrect, to believe that Pakistan is too poor to provide this basic right.

Pakistan spent 2.5 per cent of its budget on schooling in 2005/2006. It now spends just 1.5 per cent in the areas that need it most. That is less than the subsidies given to PIA, PEPCO and Pakistan Steel. Provinces are allocated funds for education but fail to spend the money.

We presume the public school system is doing poorly because teachers are poorly paid, this is untrue. Public school teachers get paid 2/3rds more than their equivalent private low cost school counterparts; they earn four times that of the average parent of a child in their school. Despite this, on any given day 10-15 per cent of teachers will be absent from their duties teaching.

There is demand for education that is partly being addressed by low cost private schools, even one third of all rural children go to these schools (public schools can cost Rs.150 per month, low cost private schools the same or up to Rs.250). Despite the large presumption of the media, both domestic and international, this gap is not actually being addressed by Madrassahs. Only six per cent of students go to Madrassahs.

Only 35 per cent of school children, aged 6-16, can read a story, while 50 per cent cannot read a sentence. Their performance is only slightly better than that of out-of-school children, of whom 24 per cent can read a story. This alarmingly demonstrates the ineffectiveness of schooling.

30,000 school buildings are in dangerous condition, posting a threat to the well being of children. Whereas 21,000 schools have no building whatsoever.

Donors are not the solution, while they grab headlines regarding their development work, government spending remains the majority by an overwhelming margin.