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Road fatalities in Balochistan

Dost Muhammad Barrech

ROADS are arguably the symbol of development and connectivity, making headway without roads is nothing more than a wishful thinking. To the contrary, narrow roads of Balochistan, instead of development and connectivity, are causing death and destruction. Traffic accidents in Balochistan have become a buzzword, breeding psychological disorders for already marginalized masses of the province. A recent report of National Highway/Motorway Police shows a gloomy picture. It claims that in Balochistan six thousand people are perishing annually and more than ten thousand are wounded in traffic accidents. Surprisingly, killing of masses in traffic accidents has outnumbered the killing of people in terrorist attacks across the province.
A pertinent query to be answered is: why is Balochistan, the largest province areas-wise and smallest province population-wise, confronting with such fatalities? Questionably, Balochistan, being the smallest province population-wise, should have the lesser traffic accidents. However, the aforementioned question has brilliantly been answered by a truck driver: according to him, three bona fide reasons are attributed to such fatal traffic accidents. Firstly, Balochistan is only province of the country which lacks motorways, having single-line narrow highways. The main RCD Highway connecting Karachi and Quetta was built 30 years ago for small traffic but so far has not been upgraded.
By virtue of growing population of the province, the RCD Highway cannot cope with heavy traffic resulting in traffic accidents. The second reason is numerous Frontier Corps FC check-posts on main roads of Balochistan. FC check posts in checking modus operandi of passengers squander precious time of drivers and put them under tremendous pressure by the passengers to reach their destination on time. Reaching destination on time requires speed which leads to serious accidents. Removing unnecessary FC checkposts is likely to mitigate road accidents. The third genuine factor, according to driver, is thriving Iranian smuggled oil. Geographically, Balochistan remains a gateway for smuggled oil and goods having porous borders with Iran and Afghanistan.
Ironically, Iranian smuggled oil is transported across the province with impunity. The leakages of oil tankers are perceived as fire bomb drenching the main highways making roads slippery for the traffic accidents. It is naïve to ban Iranian smuggled oil, unless job opportunities are generated. Balochistan has already been lagging far behind in terms of jobs; banning Iranian oil will further aggravate unemployment situation in the province. The government of Pakistan ought to diversify the economy of Balochistan; solely relying on Iranian smuggled oil would further cause havoc. Both the federal and provincial govts need to introspect and ponder over well-articulated reasons given by truck driver. Suffice to say that, causes given by driver occur in Balochistan only; thus, traffic casualties in Balochistan are higher than those of other provinces.
Grievances of Balochistan are deeply rooted which affect every segment of society. In the recent snow and rain calamity {in Balochistan}, Balochistan was left in predicament by the (Federal) government. The clumsy demeanour of the government in calamity enraged the people of Balochistan. It is the law of Nature, grievances breed hatred and hatred would inevitably pose a threat to national integration. The sooner grievances are addressed, the better. The obliviousness of National Highway Authority (NHA) of not clearing blocked highways added fuel to the fire. Kan Mehtarzai and Muslim Bagh remain the most affected areas of Balochistan in snowfall season. Surprisingly, NHA does not have a permanent centre in Muslim Bagh. NHA should establish a permanent centre in Muslim Bagh for the purpose of clearing roads in snowfall season and monitoring of highways should be regulated to avoid traffic accidents.
Balochistan is the pivot of Pakistan; Gwadar Port of the province connects world’s three billion people. China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project of Belt and Road Initiative of China, will considerably enhance the strategic importance of Balochistan. The province is going to be the hub of regional connectivity in the near future and killing of six thousand people in Balochistan is a big blow not only to Pakistan but also to the regional connectivity.
— The writer works at the Institute of Strategic Studies, a think-tank based in Islamabad.


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