Making Natural Resources a Blessing for Balochistan

By Panira Ali

Natural resources are important for the economic development of any country. But the presence of natural resources alone cannot benefit a country, unless there are better institutions, rule of law, and good governance to ensure the fair distribution of resources. In the developing world, the poverty, corruption and conflict make the presence of natural resources a curse rather blessing.

Balochistan is richly endowed with natural resources. The province possess many minerals including coal, sulphur, chromite, iron ore, barytes, marble, quartzite, and limestone. Balochistan has the largest reserves of copper and gold in the world and is also blessed with huge oil reserves. In 1953, the natural gas discovered at the Sui area of Dera Bugti, Balochistan has supplied gas to all over Pakistan, but the people of Sui are still deprived of its own gas.

Despite being a naturally rich province, people of Balochistan suffer due to poverty and underdevelopment. While for 71 years, the country’s economy gets its share of the natural resources in Balochistan, the province is still suffering from illiteracy, unemployment, and lack of any major development. The sense of deprivation in Balochistan due to lack of infrastructural and social development is leading to bitterness among its people.

Dominated by natural resources, Balochistan is also the most significant province of the country due to its geo-strategic location. Gwadar port, located at the coastal belt of Balochistan, is a deep-sea port in the Indian Ocean, strategically important for regional and international players. Since the start of commercial trade at Gwadar port, the United States (US) has been concerned about the Chinese engagement in Balochistan. The US fears that the world’s emerging economy, China, would use the port to extend its sphere of influence.

Under The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the major project for comprehensive cooperation between China and Pakistan. CPEC is a diversified development package for the region as well as for Pakistan. It is an opportunity to respond to the grievances of the province by providing them improved infrastructure and better job opportunities. Yet China’s unregulated presence in the region can pose a problem. In particular, the government of Pakistan must ensure that the local population gets preference for employment in projects initiated under CPEC. For that, it is also important to provide required education and training to the local youth to build skilled workforce in Balochistan.

The government of Pakistan, both federal and provincial, must try to integrate the people of Balochistan in the process of economic development. It would be beneficial for the local by providing them with better health, education, and employment opportunities. The economic development in the province will lead to national integration, harmony, and peaceful coexistence.