South Asia Research and Analysis Studies

Role of Army in Development of Balochistan
Afia Ambreen

Balochistan is the largest province of Pakistan and nobody can deny its importance. Pakistani geopolitical location has always been significant for the global players. Within Pakistan, the Province of Balochistan has immense geo–strategic significance in the emerging international political and economic order. Despite being the richest in mineral resources and having a 750 kilometer coastline, offering tranquil beaches and abundance of marine life, Balochistan is the most neglected province of Pakistan. Successive governments have not only left the Balochis in gross neglect, but also plundered its riches, leaving the inhabitants in a shabby and decrepit condition. Today Balochistan is burning; hundreds of people have lost their lives in terrorist attacks, sectarian violence and target killings.

Killing of members of Hazara community, Punjabi settlers and professionals like doctors, lawyers, teachers and security personnel is a matter of routine. Unfortunately, our political leadership both at provincial and federal level had never seriously worked for the people of Balochistan.
In the recent past, Pak Army has made gigantic contributions in the development of the Province, which include development in all sectors like education, health, mining, provision of jobs in Army, infrastructural development and other socio-economic development. In the field of education, over 17000 Baloch students have been selected for education in various schools and colleges, run by Pak Army and Frontier Corps. Besides, Pak Army is also imparting education to over 6500 Baloch students in the schools and colleges of Federal Government administered by Pak Army. As regards recruitment in the armed forces, there have been adequate vacancies. But a small number of Baloch youth have come forward to join this profession, mainly because of illiteracy and ignorance. Resultantly, their representation in the armed forces has been less as compared to the youth from other provinces. In order to create awareness among them about the military, and subsequently choosing it as their profession, over the past few years, the armed forces have started a massive awareness campaign and concession package all over the province.
Consequently, the army’s campaign met with overwhelming successes. Thousands of Baloch youth appeared for recruitment in various army selection and recruitment centers. About 4,000 Balochi recruits of this massive campaign completed their basic training on October 29, 2010, and joined various units of the Pak Army. The induction of these soldiers in large numbers is a major milestone and historical occasion for their families and the province. Additionally, 10,000 youths - still undergoing basic military training in various institutions - are likely to join the prestigious service in the near future.
Likewise, Pakistan Navy (PN) has launched the “N” Cadet scheme. The Baloch youth are being inducted in different cadet colleges through a sponsorship system in which they will be able to join the navy after completion of their studies. In a fast-track scheme, they are being taken directly into the PN as officers without undergoing the rigors of the Inter Services Selection Board (ISSB). Two years after commissioning, they will have to undergo the selection process by ISSB, and by that time they will be better equipped to pass the tests. Similar schemes are being undertaken for induction into the PN’s other ranks. Different branches of Bahria schools and colleges are being set up in the province, while simultaneously local schools are being sponsored by the navy where books, furniture, sports equipment and development funds are being provided.
On its part, local army units have been assigned by the COAS to arrange educational classes for the children of poor people, who cannot afford the heavy expenses of imparting even basic education. Their boarding, lodging and tuition fee is borne by the Pak Army from its own resources. The army’s contributions in the progress of Balochistan, including Chamalang Education Programme, Sui Education City, and Gwadar Institutes of Technical Education, are remarkable. Measures have been taken to sustain these projects, which are contributing positively towards better education and creation of jobs for common people, particularly in its remote areas.
Moreover, the health sector has received no less attention. Both the army and navy have set up medical centers and hospitals, where the Balochis not only receive free treatment, but also medicines. The navy’s Darman Jah Hospital at Ormara with a 100-bed facility and state-of-the-art medical equipment is a matter of pride for Pakistan. Additionally, serious patients are transferred to major hospitals in Karachi and other metropolitan centers if required. These facilities also provide equal employment opportunities to Baloch boys and girls. Indeed, the contribution of the armed forces in bringing the Baloch youth into the mainstream through their induction process is commendable. However, there is a need of political will to fulfill the promises in letter and spirits. The government must build infrastructure in the province and must ensure the safety of foreign investors and companies who provide job opportunities. More foreign investment would surely come and must generate more jobs for the people of Balochistan. Majority of people in Balochistan are peace loving and deserve to have the basic amenities of life, like education, health, communication and employment opportunities. Such process will automatically sideline the minority engaged in anti-state activities.