Saudi, Chinese investment could defuse militancy in Baluchistan - experts

Special Saudi, Chinese investment could defuse militancy in Baluchistan - experts
Advisor to the Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood and Chairman BoI Haroon Sharif hold delegation level talks with Saudi Minister for Commerce and investment Majid bin Abdullah A l Qasabi in Islamabad on February 18, 2019. (PID)
Updated 19 February 2019

Saudi, Chinese investment could defuse militancy in Baluchistan - experts

Saudi, Chinese investment could defuse militancy in Baluchistan - experts
  • Kingdom to construct an oil refinery and petrochemical complex in the Gwadar
  • Important to include local populace in development projects, analysts say

KARACHI: The inflow of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan’s least developed province of Balochistan may gradually eradicate the violent insurgency propagated by nationalistic forces, residents of the region told Arab News on Tuesday.

Strategically located, the province has become a hub for new investments from Pakistan's allies. After the administration in Beijing and authorities in Islamabad initiated the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – an assortment of various energy, infrastructure and other projects – Saudi Arabia followed suit by pledging to invest $11 billion to build an oil refinery and petrochemical complex in the Gwadar port of the province.

On Sunday, as part of his two-day visit to the country, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman signed several investment deals worth $21 billion with Prime Minister Imran Khan. With a population of 12,344,408, Balochistan has witnessed low-level insurgency which is usually attributed to the economic underdevelopment of the province. However, the issue is already beginning to recede with the passage of time.

“The Baloch militancy has no capacity to stop the process of investment, such as the oil refinery and CPEC. The violence may continue since it is a regional problem. But I don’t think it would disrupt the investment inflow,” Hasil Khan Bizenjo, a veteran politician and senator, told Arab News.

He added that the success of the new investments is "contingent on the inclusion of the local population."

“If locals are taken on-board … it would be a successful venture. Balochistan is very sensitive [about this] and the only way to address this issue is to involve local people in the development process," he said, adding that "when there will be infrastructure development and more roads, there will be a gradual end to poverty and militancy.”

Several others agreed with the senator's views. "People of the area want to get out of poverty and backwardness. They believe they have the chief right over employment opportunities created by various development projects in their area,” Nasir Rahim Sohrabi, President of the Rural Community Development Council (RCDC), said.

The proposed mega oil refinery will help Pakistan in terms of its technology transfer, skill enhancement and human capital development, he said.“The provincial and federal governments should come up with skill development programs for local people so they can be taken on-board as projects in this region continue to unfold,” Sohrabi said.

Mir Naveed Balochi, President of Gwadar Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told Arab News that their dream to see Gwadar as a "developed port city is going to be materialized within a matter of a few years." 

"This place will soon be recognized as a big city and major economic hub on the world map. At present, the price of real estate here has increased, the importance of Gwadar has enhanced, though only a small number of people have got employment. The work has not started yet,” Baloch said, adding that key players such as Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani, who hail from Balochistan, "are pursuing the case of the province".

“If the people are involved in the development projects, the element of militancy would be wiped out. If they are excluded and they don’t benefit from the development work, however, the militancy will likely multiply,” Baloch warned.

Some analysts say a clear investment road map for Balochistan and Gwadar will help determine the shape of things to come. “So far, people were not taking investment promises seriously. However, it is a different situation now, though a clear plan is still missing,” Sardar Shoukat Popalzai, President of Balochistan Economic Forum, said.

It may be recalled that Balochistan was behind all other provinces on the Human Development Index prepared by the United Nations Development Program last year. Punjab topped the table with 0.732 points, followed by Sindh (0.640), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (0.628), and Balochistan (0.421).