Balochistan not only suffers because of the misuse of its natural gas resources and low employment but also because of the low prices for the misused gas
Punjab, with Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz in power, plans to take over gas resources through amending Article 158, which states: “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 that well-head, subject to the commitments and obligations as on the commencing day.” Minister for Petroleum Khaqan Abbasi stated that it was unfair that CNG was available for vehicles in a gas-producing province (read Sindh and Balochistan) while fertiliser plants were closed in another province (read Punjab) due to non-availability of gas and added, “This needs to be rationalised. Pakistan belongs to all and provinces are a part of it.” Rationalising exploitation is their priority now.
Whether rational or irrational, vicious exploitation of Balochistan has been the norm here. Respected analyst Syed Fazl-e-Haider wrote in a national daily in September 2009: “Balochistan for increased share in gas revenue. While the federal government is arbitrarily subsidising the sale of natural gas from Balochistan to consumers in other provinces without its consent, the province is left with no funds to finance its annual development programme. According to one estimate, the subsidy for Sindh is around Rs 1.72 billion and for Punjab and the NWFP Rs 12.92 billion. The subsidy being given to the fertiliser sector in terms of fuel, amounts to Rs 1.054 billion, cement sector Rs 34.64 million, fertiliser (feedstock) Rs 31.03 million, CNG Rs 24.12 million, general industrial sector Rs 424.15 million and commercial sector Rs 54.67 million. All the subsidies are being provided at Balochistan’s expense.”
Mr Haider added, “Sui gas field is still the country’s single largest gas field, which produces around 800 mmscf of natural gas daily from 87 wells. If it continues with the same speed, these reserves could hardly last for eight to 10 years. The gas reserves discovered in Sui were to the tune of 9.625 trillion cubic feet in 1952. Commercial exploitation of the field began in 1955. Since then, the Sui field has been meeting a significant amount of the country’s energy requirements. The production from Sui gas field is a vital source of huge foreign exchange savings as the same would have been spent on the import of energy had the gas reserves not been discovered in abundance. Unfortunately, the province has been deprived of its due share in royalty and economic benefits.” Article 158 has remained redundant in the case of Balochistan and an amendment would only allow increased injustice there and in Sindh.
Naseer Memon, Chief Executive of Strengthening Participatory Organisation (SPO) in his paper “Oil and Gas Resources and Rights of Provinces: A case study of Sindh” says: “Sindh and Balochistan together contribute more than 93 percent of the national gas production and therefore can be considered energy basket of Pakistan.” To prove that Punjab devours most despite Article 158, he quotes the Pakistan Energy Yearbook 2008 table, which translates as: “Sindh consumes less than the half of the gas against its production, Balochistan consumes just around a quarter while Punjab consumes 8.5 times more gas than its production.”
Mr Memon also gives consumption figures to highlight the exploitation: “There are 2,760,238 domestic consumers in Punjab while in Balochistan only 179,372. Similarly industrial consumers’ number is 4,792 and 46 respectively. The percentages of the above are 53 percent and 3 percent, and 53 percent and 1 percent of total respectively. The national average too is 53 percent and 3 percent respectively.” Amending Article 158 will mean further deprivation of Balochistan and Sindh.
In an Urdu daily Mr Memon wrote: “The employment of the native Sindhis and Baloch in the gas and oil fields is also meagre. At the present time, Sindh produces about 65 percent of oil and 70 percent gas of the total (Balochistan produces more than 20 percent of gas now but for nearly two decades provided for 100 percent needs).”
In the National Assembly on April 14, 2006, the then Minister of Petroleum Mr Amanullah Jadoon gave the following employment figures for Sui Southern and Sui Northern companies:
Total Employment: 11,613.
Employees from Sindh: 3,613 (of which 1,960 are for the urban domiciled).
Employees from Punjab: 5,454.
Employees from Balochistan: 353.
Balochistan not only suffers because of the misuse of its natural gas resources and low employment but also because of the low prices for the misused gas. It is a triple whammy for Balochistan’s eternally bankrupt economy. My friend Nizamuddin Nizamani in a paper for the Eighth Sustainable Development Conference 2005 exposed the blatantly unequal natural gas wellhead prices in different provinces:
Balochistan produces 374,161 MCFT/Year with wellhead prices as below.
Gas field Wellhead price Rs/MMBTU.
Sindh produces 536,452 MCFT/Y.
Gas field Rs/MMBTU
Punjab produces 67,691 MCFT/Y.
Wellhead prices have seen some increase but still Punjab gets more from less while Balochistan less from more. Injustices against the Baloch and Sindhis are rife in every aspect of life, which are conveniently overlooked even when highlighted as the state narrative is fanatically fixated on ‘national interests’, which mean the ruling elite and establishment’s interests. With Dr Malik Baloch’s government in the saddle, which does not even sneeze without Lahore and Islamabad’s permission, Baloch welfare prospects have diminished exponentially.
When exploitation is rationalized, its natural corollary is rationalisation of atrocities needed to suppress those who do not submit to exploitation. The Baloch, after realising the futility of deliverance under the establishment and elite favouring arrangements, which find respectability under the constitution and law, have struggled ceaselessly. Their struggle has evoked a vicious response from the establishment and they face a systematic ‘dirty war’ unleashed under the guise of ‘maintaining the writ of the state’. This ‘dirty war’ has assumed a doubly sinister aspect since the ‘establishment’ and army switched from dumping abducted persons’ bodies to killing abducted persons in staged encounters. Six abducted Marris were killed in a staged encounter in Bolan on August 10, 2013. The Bolan six included Bijjar Marri, abducted with the no longer missing Khudadad Marri on June 24. The viciousness of this intensified ‘dirty war’ is further exposed by the unprovoked killing of political activists. My friend Raza Jahangir aka Sheymureed Baloch, Secretary General of Baloch Students Organisation (Azad) and Imdad Baloch of Balochistan National Movement were killed in Turbat by the Frontier Corps (read army) as a part of the Independence Day celebrations of 14th of August.
The writer has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He tweets at mmatalpur and can be contacted at email@example.com