Balochistan has faced major challenges in its internal situations over the years. Meanwhile, not all of the problems have been overcome. And, even today, the province is confronting a great deal of problems that are impeding its progress to be one of the developed and prosperous provinces. The question is, why is Balochistan still failing?
To draw attention, Balochistan is the most underdeveloped and deprived province in terms of basic services such as, health, education, safe drinking water supply, sanitation and years of underinvestment by governing bodies. As a percentage of population, Balochistan’s poverty rate is at the top and it is not surprising that prevalence of child labor, child marriage, infant mortality and gender disparity are above the provincial average.
Here is a brief description of two major issues Balochistan is facing till date. First of all, Balochistan is facing a myriad crisis of enforced disappearances. The province has been subject to enforced disappearances for the years that raises several questions about the lives of people. In addition, the National Assembly on human rights claims a total of 4,608 missing persons from 2011 till December 2017.
According to a 2019 report of Human Rights Commission, Balochistan is entitled as ‘Neglected still’ where 47,000 Baloch are missing. The Voice for Baloch Missing Persons claims that more than 5000 missing persons have been forcibly disappeared and more than 5000 missing persons have been killed and dumped over the last decade. The fact that enforced disappearance has never been stopped, there has been a constant crackdown on Baloch. Like, within four months – from January 2021 to April – the Commission of Inquiry of enforced disappearances received 952 new complaints of disappearances.
Furthermore, one question raises whether enforced disappearance is an evil in the province or not. Is it a crying evil or not? Of course, it is an evil practice that is prevailing and still ongoing. How can there be peace where cruelty, disgrace and inhuman practices take place? It has set a dangerous and unwelcome precedent.
Let’s have a look over Hafeez Baloch who was an M.Phil student in Physics at Quaid e Azam University, hailing from Khuzdar, was dragged out and disappeared from a classroom in his hometown. People raised voice, but unfortunately, only silence reigned.
Issue of disappearances has plagued Balochistan since military dictator General Pervez Musharraf decided to join the ‘US War on terror’ post 9/11 attack. The situation in Balochistan remains dire since then: people are abducted or illegally detained as well as tortured. The intensity of the issue is severe, especially in Balochistan where Pakistani military and intelligence agencies regularly conduct anti-insurgency operations. The disappearances take terrible tolls on families as their children are picked up and disappeared.
Voices against enforced disappearance are heard in various parts of the province, and people are in anguish wanting to know the whereabouts of their family members. Apart from it, Voice for Baloch Missing Persons held a long march, led by Mama Qadeer Baloch, on feet from Quetta to Islamabad in 2014, but all in vain. They don’t demand anything unconstitutional or undemocratic, but simply ask to present forcibly disappeared persons in the courts if they committed any wrongdoing.
Sadly, those have hands behind it are free and thriving and even they express themselves as clear as day without realising the sorrows and struggles of victims. There is no denying the fact that the dark clouds hovering over the province continue to darken ominously as the situation gets more desperate due to lack of seriousness on issue of enforced disappearances. This problem echoes in entire Balochistan to be eradicated since disappearance is a crime against humanity.
Second problem is a defective education system of Balochistan. Right after independence, we opted for the British style of education which sadly could not meet the needs. On the other hand, our government has a non-serious attitude towards acknowledging the importance of education. This might make you surprised but it is a bitter reality that only 0.37 of the national GDP is spent on education in Balochistan. Isn’t it quite negligible that the least GDP is spent on education? Unless we realise the significance of education, the imperfections in education system can never come to an end.
Like many low to middle income counties, there is a learning crisis in Balochistan. Assessment data for children at various stages of schooling shows that most children have significantly lower levels of learning compared to other provinces like Punjab and Sindh. Despite all reforms that have happened, and there has been a lot of reforms, most schools in Balochistan have poor education system. Our assessment shows this which is the reason why Baloch have less seats in federal level.
Many schools have poor infrastructure and lack facilities. Some still do not have the required number of teachers, and in too many schools teaching method is not an acceptable standard. Few teachers lack pedagogy skills and the motivation to teach; for a few teachers, educating children is just the job of last resort.
There is a literature for developing countries that argues that sometimes we try to teach too much, too fast and too early, just to complete the courses. Teaching at the right level and teaching at the right pace are important for a good education system. But in our effort to ensure that children well and can compete, we forget they are children. There have been complaints about Single National Curriculum. Some have complaints about textbooks consisting too much to teach. And have you ever observed a school-child who carries a heavy bag? Such flaws in education system breaks the spirit and interest of children or puts unhealthy levels of pressure on them.
Every person has the right to have access to quality education. This has been signed by Pakistan through various international declarations, and it is the part of the basic section of our Constitution as well (article 25A). Education system must be qualitative and the best that sets up children for healthy competition.
In a nutshell, the problems in Balochistan continue to mount. The backward education system with severely outdated, underfunded and understaffed educational institutions – where employs are untrained and unmotivated – widespreads imperfections. As long as we are unable to agree that enforced disappearance is a crime, we will not be able to fight against the menace of it.
For the sake of millions, we must stand. We can start by taking some courage since there is much to be highlighted and changed. These two major challenges are wake-up calls that need immediate reforming policies. The government has to do much more for burying off the issues. What these issues need is to be addressed. If something can be done today, why wait till tomorrow?