Pakistan’s prime minister claims his government will focus on province’s development in contrast with behavior of past rulers
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday said he was considering initiating dialogue with “elements” in Balochistan who have exploited by past grudges or Indian influence to “spread anarchy” in Pakistan.
Speaking to a gathering of elders during a one-day visit to Gwadar, he said the situation that had fostered disenfranchisement no longer applied. Blaming past rulers’ negligence for Balochistan’s condition, he claimed the incumbent government would enhance its annual contribution for the development of the province.
Per routine, the prime minister alleged previous rulers had prioritized political objectives. “They did not pay attention to Balochistan province and focused solely on becoming prime minister of the country. They preferred to live in London and spend time [there] during summer season,” he said, in an apparent reference to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, a common target for Khan’s ire.
Khan claimed—wrongly, as Sharif had visited Balochistan shortly after his election in 2013 and again in 2016—Nawaz Sharif had visited the U.K. 24 during his previous tenure, 23 of them “private trips” but had not toured Balochistan. Similarly, he claimed, former president Asif Ali Zardari had traveled to Dubai 51 times but had not visited Balochistan. He alleged that the “ruling elite” preferred to focus on winning elections, rather than developing impoverished areas such as Balochistan and the erstwhile tribal areas.
“It was our great misfortune. If they had paid attention to the whole country, they might continue as rulers of the country,” he claimed, stressing that the country could only progress if there were simultaneous and uniform progress throughout it.
Khan acknowledged that the residents of Balochistan felt a sense of deprivation due to this continuous neglect, as neither the center nor the political leadership of the province had paid attention to the plight of people in the past. The incumbent federal government, he claimed, had by contrast announced a large uplift package for the province because it felt that injustice was done with the people of the province. He said part of the government’s plans concerned the development of Gwadar, including a desalination plant and a new 300-bed teaching hospital.
The prime minister said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would bring the greatest benefits to the people of Balochistan and inhabitants of Gwadar. He said the government was committed to providing 3G and 4G internet connectivity throughout the province, claiming this would create employment opportunities for a great segment of the population.
According to the prime minister, the government had also allocated Rs. 10 billion under the Kamyab Jawan Program to protect fishermen and improve their conditions, adding that Rs. 5 billion of this had already been spent. He said a complete ban had been placed on illegal fishing through big trawlers. He also apprised the elders of the government’s low-cost housing program, saying 4,000 applications had been received from the area thus far, and 200 acres of land had been identified to build 2,500 houses. He said Ehsaas scholarships would be awarded to 4,698 youth of the province.
Later, speaking with media, the prime minister hit out at India, claiming it would be the “biggest loser” in Afghanistan once the U.S. had completed withdrawing its troops from the war-torn state. “At the time, India faces the biggest problem in Afghanistan,” he said. “India has its billions of dollars invested in Afghanistan—a country where the situation is extremely intricate,” he said, and reiterated allegations of Delhi being involved in terrorism against Pakistan.
Pakistan has a very clear stance on Afghanistan and stands by it, said Khan. “There is no military solution to the Afghan problem. The Afghan parties will decide the future of their country,” he stressed, and warned that if the world did not pay attention to the ground realities, more bloodshed could ensue in the region.