Translated by Salman Latif, originally published in Urdu on PakVoices Gwadar website
Balochistan is the most underdeveloped province of Pakistan and Dera Bugti is one of the most underdeveloped parts of this province. In Dera Bugti is located Sui, the area which has come to be the backbone of Pakistan’s economy.
Natural gas was discovered at Sui gas field in 1952 and by 1955, this gas was being supplied to different parts of Pakistan. It is important to note here that the first provinces to get supply from Sui gas were Punjab and Sindh.
60 years have elapsed since the discovery and meanwhile, only 14 towns in the whole of Balochistan enjoy supply from this gas to date. Sui, the town which is a mere 4 miles from the gas discovery site, itself has no gas supply and people are forced to use wood and coal as fuel.
Even in the provincial capital of Balochistan, Quetta, Sui gas supply came as late as 1970. Then in 1990, Hub was also provided gas supply because it became an industrial area.
What is worse is that despite being the site of Sui gas, no one considers balancing the gas supply so that Balochistan gets to enjoy a modest amount of it. Rather, even Balochistan Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Mr. Jam Kamaal recently said that ‘We are considering the option of importing Sui gas from Iran.’ Needless to say, the statement is utterly ridiculous. Sui gas refers to the gas excavated from Sui fields in Balochistan. However, it reflects a more serious problem: that the federal and provincial governments have no plans of ensuring more widespread gas supply in Balochistan.
It is pertinent to note at this point that Article 158 of Pakistan’s Constitution reads,
Article 158. Priority of requirements of natural gas.
The Province in which a well-head of natural gas is situated shall have precedence over other parts of Pakistan in meeting the requirements from the well-head, subject to the commitments and obligations as on the commencing day.
Which simply means that the discovery of any natural resources must first benefit the province where the discovery has been made. Sadly, the inverse is true in the case of Balochistan and its Sui gas field. Some argue that given the scattered settlements and rough terrains in Balochistan, it is a problem to ensure gas supply to these remote areas. However, this argument stands void because Sui gas is being supplied to some of the remotest areas of Punjab and Sindh. Surely, it couldn’t be so much more hard to ensure better gas supply, at least to a substantial portion of the population of Balochistan if not all of them.
Given below are some statistics about gas consumption in Pakistan, taken from Pakistan Annual Energy Book 2007:
|Province||Production (MCFT)||Total %||Consumption||%|
Being deprived of a fair share of Sui gas for the last 60 years is one of the key grievances of the people of Balochistan. And from the looks of it, this will continue to be the case. These days, numerous promises are being made to turn Gwadar into a hub of industry, trade and development. The sad fact is that Gwadar lacks some of the most basic amenities such as clean water. Not only that, only some 10% of the population enjoys gas supply while the rest wait for the fulfillment of grand promises.
In the absence of gas supply, people in Gwadar have to buy wood, coal and petrol to meet their fuel needs. Some residents of Gwadar express their views on this issue in the following words:
Today Pakistani state should consider the fact that Balochistan, being the producer of Sui gas, deserves to benefit from it fairly. Steps taken towards meeting this fair demand will immediately diminish the sense of deprivation which is widely felt by the people of Balochistan today. On the other hand, continuing the policy of discriminating against Balochistan by depriving it of its rightful share in natural resources will only widen the gulf of distrust between the people of Balochistan and the rest of the country.