A senior expert from Balochistan working for the United Nations Development Program has said the onerous job of recovery in the earthquake hit areas of Balochistan can be effectively handled by Pakistani experts.
“There are development experts like Kaiser Bengali, Harris Khalique and Zaffar Iqbal who can spend a week of quality time to brainstorm with the provincial stakeholders in Quetta, followed by consultation with the affected population. They can draw the recovery framework and come up with an investment portfolio,” said Quetta native Usman Qazi, who is Recovery Advisor for the UNDP in Lebanon in an online conversation from Beirut Wednesday.
However, both the Pakistan military and the Baloch militants in the worst hit Awaran district seem to be on the same page to stop the relief and recovery efforts.
From the military’s standpoint, the recovery efforts appear to have fallen prey to the infamous strategic depth policy of the GHQ, where the strategic location of Balochistan, its proximity to Afghanistan, Iran and Persian Gulf and its potential as a base to exert influence abroad through proxy forces is accorded more importance than the well being of its Baloch inhabitants.
"The army wants to play a wait-and-see policy in Balochistan until the NATO pullout from Afghanistan in 2014,” another analyst, requesting anonymity said. “While the insurgents in Awaran district want to thwart the recovery efforts as they think this will weaken their efforts to demonise all things Pakistani, eroding their support base and their slogan will lose steam,” he adds.
Usman Qazi had helped with the earthquake relief works in Ziarat in 2008. “I suggested that the housing reconstruction grant be given directly to each family to build their homes, to defeat corruption and unnecessary overheads. In this case in Awaran, though, some technical expertise may be needed because of the remoteness of the area, and the low level of human development among the victims” he said. In Qazi's view, the task of sustainable recovery of quake affected areas and its subsequent development is well within the means of the government, provided there is a political will and, more importantly, all stakeholders ensure peaceful conditions for the aid workers.
The September 24 earthquake that measured 7.7 on the Richter scale claimed 400 lives and left more than 1,000 injured. As many 32,000 families were affected in Awaran and 5,000 families in Kech. Nearly 200 schools were also razed to the ground.
Balochistan chief minister Dr. Malik Baloch had appealed for international help for the rehabilitation and reconstruction works to rebuild roads, schools, homes and water supply lines but the security establishment in Islamabad is not ready to grant NOCs to the international agencies for the work.
Dr. Baloch was holding a meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad Wednesday to find ways to resolve the issue. Unlike the brutal army, that had staged a coup against his last elected government, businessman-turned-premier Sharif is keenly interested in winning the hearts and minds of the people through investments.