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The interview: Chief Minister of Balochistan Jam Kamal Khan

'My approach is holistic regarding the overall governance and the current situation'

 Special to Gulf News

In the follow-up to my article on #EmergingBalochistan last Sunday, I texted a few questions to Balochistan’s Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan. Much graciously, he responded to each one in great detail.

Mehr Tarar: Growing up in a political family, and after you joined politics, what to you was the biggest issue of Balochistan?

Chief Minister Jam Kamal: The biggest issues of Balochistan have always been its deprivation, underdevelopment, socioeconomic deficiencies, almost non-existent ways of connectivity, and becoming the centre of many conflicts.

What in your view were the most important issues of Balochistan when you became the chief minister of Balochistan?

As I took the oath, I realised that the previous Balochistan governments lacked a proper mechanism of governance. The governance model worked on a very basic, day-to-day or a point-to-point basis, from district to the highest level. That was the most important factor that led to Balochistan’s backwardness, downgrading and underdevelopment.

What steps have you taken for the integration of the nationalist or separatist Baloch into the mainstream Baloch oneness?

Nationalists and separatists are two different types of people. Every Baloch like every other Pakistani is a nationalist: those who want the best for their area and people.

Whereas separatists are those who have an agenda to break apart a system or an area for their vested interests; from time to time they try to influence the nationalists, too. Our focus has been to address the issues of those who love their motherland and are kept deprived of the fulfilment of their basic needs. The way to address that is none other than delivering to people’s needs.

What steps have you taken to provide a long-lasting sense of security to the Hazara of Balochistan?

[For a long time] law and order has been an acute issue in Balochistan. As compared to the last many years, there has been a huge improvement in the recent years. The Hazara community is a part of Balochistan, and security for all has been always been our top priority. In consideration of the sensitivity of some particular areas and communities we have improved the overall capacity of our law enforcement agencies. A great deal of legislation and investment has been done in the police and Levies departments. Steps have been taken for strengthening the law enforcement agencies for better law and order: safe cities, Levies’ reforms, new Levies units for the first time, extensions of A areas, expansion of counterterrorism department, coast security plan, Quetta Safe City, improvement in human resources.

How important is CPEC for the long-term development of Balochistan, and on a larger sense, for the entire Pakistan?

Very unfortunate that there was stagnation during 2013-2018 when the main initiative of CPEC was taken. The then provincial and federal governments did not start any concrete projects in terms of infrastructure, business opportunities, construction of industrial areas, connecting Balochistan with the rest of Pakistan–projects that would have been beneficial for the people of Balochistan. Five years lost in an utterly unplanned and illogical manner. We were not part of the core development in the first phase, the early harvest stage. Improvements were made in the port authority and facilities. Other than that, Balochistan did not get any big infrastructure projects that were seen in the other parts of Pakistan. The onus of that was absolutely on the then federal government. Also, the then provincial government in collaboration with the federal government did not make any project that was beneficial for Balochistan’s people: major roads, dams, industrial zones, infrastructure for electricity.

Moving beyond the investment stage CPEC is now in its phase two. What has emerged is a business-to-business dynamic equipped with many opportunities in numerous areas. I wish the previous government had paid attention to the importance of infrastructure; once you have the basic infrastructure and access opportunities, electricity, gas and other amenities in a place, it attracts more investors.

Now with the provincial and federal governments working together, we are trying to decrease the deficit of infrastructure and other facilities, which cannot be made by the investing business community. In the last two and a half years, in collaboration with the federal government, we have planned projects worth more than seven-eight hundred billion rupees. I’ve found areas in which along with the basic infrastructure, border markets, industrial zones, marble-mining zones, and socioeconomic and agricultural sectors can be made. That would help us attract opportunities through the CPEC business ventures.

How is Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government different in its approach to and concern for Balochistan in comparison to the governments in the last twenty years?

I’ve been part of the previous government [PML-N, 2013-2018]. Over the last many years, we have seen how “seriously” the centre takes the issues related to Balochistan. Khan saheb has been very candid about Balochistan. He is very clear about his focus and his target of the development of Balochistan. The only way to judge a person’s intention or a government’s policy is to ascertain, one, how seriously they take your suggestions; two, do they give more weight to your suggestions or are they more inclined towards their own plans; three, does their policy reflect in their annual development programme, in their development sector; fourth, are they pursuing the policy with the intention of actual action; fifth, are they owning it on a yearly basis for the provincial allocation; and sixth, is the premier visiting Balochistan with a key interest in how the province should develop.

With these six points, when I do a comparison of this government with the last one, I see a great deal of improvement. We have seen that the projects identified by our government have been taken on board by the federal government. Our government is even heading the committees that are formed by the federal government.

The change is also reflected in the annual development plans and in the PSDP [Public Sector Development Programme]. Funds are allocated. Projects are being authorised and tendered, with actual work starting on the ground. Then there is the prime minister’s follow-up mechanism; he visits Balochistan and interacts with us in meetings headed by us for work being done for Balochistan.

This is a very big difference as compared to the workings of the previous government/s. The previous government might have initiated various projects, but much was missing in the context of the allocation of more responsibility to the province and taking on board the representation from the province.

Quetta, Cabinet meeting, January 2021
Quetta, Cabinet meeting, January 2021
Image Credit: Balochistan Chief Minister Office

How is your chief ministership different from the previous chief ministers including your father?

How I am different from the other chief ministers, including my father and even my grandfather… When I became the chief minister the biggest challenge for me was to assess what Balochistan lacked in terms of governance. What would change that? To me, it is not just an issue limited to Balochistan, it is true of all of Pakistan.

We, mostly, don’t realise that any political party that represents the people should have a different way of working when it becomes the party that forms a government. The kind of a political team that you had before or during an election doesn’t necessarily have to be the team ideally suited to perform well in the matters of governance. In Pakistan, and in particular, in Balochistan, the same team members become the administrators, shareholders, ministers and policy makers in a government. That I feel is something that harms us.

What needs to change in all provinces of Pakistan including Balochistan, and what we have tried to introduce and build on to bring us to a position to deliver is the mechanism of governance. You need to work like a team of technocrats. You must adopt good practices of global institutions: mechanisms for management and initiative-ness; building your core teams; identification of problem areas; charting timelines; formation of strategies for analyses of development and other budgets; creation of solid TORs and KPIs; using technology as a tool of monitoring; using IT for filing of work and for monitoring of the methodology of governance, performance of government, utilisation of budget, the ongoing issues, and the steps being taken in each part of the province. The inculcation of these steps would bring about the changes that we wish to see in the Balochistan government to attain its maximum potential.

Running our government on the status quo model of the past, we would be able to finish our term but without knowing what we have done and what we should have done. The issues, the potential, the failure to tackle the accumulated problems, sectors that have been accessed or ignored. The overall picture not just pieces. I might have done a few things in a particular field or area. Any government could have done that, but that is not an all-inclusive policy. Previously, each sector of Balochistan had not been taken into consideration, and no plan had been made in accordance with where things stand, and how things should be in say, five- or ten-years’ time.

My approach is holistic regarding the overall governance and the current situation. More than forty-forty-five percent departments have been evaluated in terms of their human resources and potential strength; revenue-generating capacity; areas that need rationalisation; overall ADP and PSDP rationalisation for decades old unfinished schemes; reduction of expenses; re-budgeting. There are many previously ignored areas in which we have stepped in for the first time.

What I’ve started with my cabinet and team is that I’ve regular official meetings every day. Rather than focusing on the work of one department, which was not of interest to other cabinet members attending the meetings, now we have daily meetings with one particular department on its specific issues. We have increased the frequency of our cabinet meetings. This way my cabinet and all the official departments are on board. Looking at various factors and variables, we take decisions as a team, not individually. In the past, it was rare for all stakeholders to be on board while being cognisant of all the issues of the province. We try to do as much as possible as there is always room for improvement.

Is your development agenda focused on the whole of Balochistan, to the remotest corner of the province beyond the big cities and towns?

When we formed the government one of our key concerns was how we should address all the issues of Balochistan. In the past, there were examples of practices that only the areas of interest to the then chief minister or his cabinet or some strong political elements would get the bulk of development or funds. Excluded were many areas that were without any representation in the cabinet; those belonging to a coalition party and some despite being part of the government felt sidelined. Our government came up with a different approach.

Firstly, we made clear that every district–be it with the representation of a coalition partner, someone from an opposition party, or the government would never be deprived of their due share. Just because their affiliations are not with us, that does not mean that their wellbeing is not our responsibility. Once in government, we represent, without any discrimination, all the people of Balochistan.

We began the allocation of our development and human resources programme and budgets as per the needs and the population of each district. That process strengthened the balance of the distribution of funds for the development and non-development projects for all parts of Balochistan.

Our development projects vary in size. Some schemes at a lower level cost very little but are badly needed in a particular area. A few examples would be the minimal repair of a school; construction of a small road in an inner city, a town or a village; small electrification needs; establishment of a dispensary or a small school, the basic structures suited to a village or a rural area.

Another category of schemes, a little higher in terms of the financial cost, include bigger roads, connecting one village to another; a sports facility; a middle or a high school, and an irrigation or agricultural project.

Then there is the third category. We are making degree, intermediate, residential and cadet colleges; higher secondary schools; polytechnic institutes; and hospitals in many tehsils and districts. Construction of fifteen-twenty-kilometre long roads to connect one tehsil to another is also underway.

Healthcare is one of our top priorities. New hospitals are being constructed.

All the new colleges, schools, hospitals and government buildings are being constructed in the latest architectural designs.

For the civil administration there are hardly any buildings, offices or houses. We are working on establishing the required facilities.

Our approach to sports is also holistic. Every district will have a sports complex of approximately fifty acres. Grounds for cricket, football and other sports; space for indoor sports; a special area for social gatherings; a park; a library; a market; and a walking track in one facility in one district sports complex with the space for more additions as and when required.

Included in our bigger, higher cost projects are 70-100-kilometre roads connecting two districts. In pipeline are also large dams that fall beyond the jurisdiction of a district, and other big-cost schemes that are needed for a particular area.

Lastly, we have the plans that are beyond the scope of a provincial government. Even when we have the finances, we need to do such projects with the collaboration of the federal government. Dams and roads with the cost of 30-40 billion rupees. The roads connect Balochistan to other provinces or connect three-four districts. The development of the coast of Balochistan is also of paramount importance to our government.

Our work is also focused on developing tourism in Balochistan, establishment of business incubation centres and separate markets for women, establishment of cardiology and cancer hospitals, and transformation and addition of more human resources in the healthcare system.

Do you have any personal interaction with the people of your province?

My public interaction is a little different as maybe compared to that of previous chief ministers. I thought that when you become the [chief] executive, you need to be clear about your plan of interaction, and how you have to perform as the chief minister of your province. It is not limited to meeting people. The position requires a lot more than that. The distribution of your time should be very clearly delineated.

As chief minister, I decided to divide my time for the work in my office, meeting parliamentarians, and meeting delegations visiting from abroad, other parts of Pakistan, and other parts of Balochistan.

Utilisation of social networking apps is a key component of my accessibility to a large number of people. I also use WhatsApp for interaction; technology has simplified interaction in a big way.

My day in office is systemically distributed for various commitments. The first part is allotted to the official meetings, at least two to three in one day. The members of a number of committees and departments attend these meetings. A wide range of issues are discussed, and decisions are taken.

I also have meetings on prior requests with individuals and delegations; most of them wish to have access to me to share with me their point of view on various issues.

I also meet parliamentarians–MPAs, MNAs and Senators–on a daily basis.

Quite often, I, accompanied by other parliamentarians, attend one or two programmes organised in different parts of the city. Once a week, we visit other cities of Balochistan for the inspection of the ongoing work on different projects, such as the construction of a road, a building, a school, or a hospital. The purpose is to ensure everything is proceeding as per the plan.

Once in ten or fifteen days, I visit some other part of Balochistan with my delegation or cabinet members. The past practice was to visit but without taking on board parliamentarians or ministers or officials. It was used to be done on a less of a proper governance methodology. Instead of just making political visits, I try to choose a new place to visit where I meet people from various backgrounds. I attend meetings for the review of the development work, go to a few inauguration events, and have meetings with the public in a very open manner. People sit with me comfortably to discuss their issues.

I believe in accessibility. I manage my own twitter account. I interact with people; I respond to most of their comments. I share everything with them–the meetings that I have, places that I visit. I always try to give a response to their queries or comments. It is to show them that I see their comments and have my pulse on their issues. Yes, I’m aware that Twitter is not the whole of Balochistan. My team and I use Facebook the same way; Facebook has more users in Balochistan.

WhatsApp has truly opened a new way of communication. We have many large groups, party and social groups. my number is accessible to everybody. I respond, obviously not to all messages, but I do read all the messages sent to me.

We have made a complaint cell, the Chief Minister Balochistan Complaint Cell, where people can approach me through Twitter, Facebook, newspapers and other platforms. I’m aware of the issues of various districts shared even through newspaper messages. The complaint cell personnel are directed to monitor the grievances and get back to the complainants. For the follow-up, they are directed to stay in touch with the releavnt deputy commissioner’s office or other departments, and report back to me.

What is Jam Kamal’s short-and long-term vision for Balochistan?

Jam Kamal’s short- and long-term vision, the short-term agenda for me is to upgrade the existing system of governance to a much better performing mechanism. A system in which officials of all departments are fully aware of how they have to perform, their responsibilities, and if they are doing them or not doing them. I must know exactly what is happening on ground.

I’ve created different platforms where I’ve access to all the relevant officials–secretaries, deputy commissioners, commissioners. I’ve created WhatsApp groups for finance, health, education, budget and other departments. I interact with them on an hourly and even minute-to-minute basis. There are also combined WhatsApp groups where all the stakeholders are not just part of one group but are on many groups. They read my directives and ensure that everything is being followed. I check through pictures and videos if they are doing their work in a timely manner or not.

Good governance is the core need of Balochistan. Good service is the core need of the people of Balochistan. I should ensure that they receive it through the work of the officials and authorities concerned. That is the short term, the quick solution for improvement in things, be it the issues of schools, colleges, hospitals, roads, and other facilities. Are things being made productive or not, I’m watching. And they know I’m watching, and that I’m interacting with them.

My mid and long-term plan is that we must work on the potential of Balochistan. The resources of Balochistan should now come into use. We always talk about the resources of this province but not much has ever been done. Balochistan’s coast is one of the biggest potentials that we have, and we are investing in that. The fishing sector connected to Balochistan’s marine life is another sector in which we are investing. Mines and minerals are some of Balochistan’s biggest resources, and we are also investing in that. We have formed companies and appointed chief operating officers who we would ensure work differently rather than delivering as a typical government department.

Our focus is also on the renewable potential of Balochistan.

One more thing that we are working on is the augmentation of the potential of Balochistan to become the reservoir of sweet water in Pakistan. On the west side of Balochistan some areas have the potential of growth in olives and other fruit orchards. All these steps have the capacity to provide countless job opportunities to our people and for the enhancement of the economy of our province.

Balochistan as a tourism destination for the whole of Pakistan, this is one area that has tremendous potential. Desert, sea, plain lands, a splendid coastline, beautiful islands, green mountains, barren mountains, snow, you name it, you have that in Balochistan. We are planning to optimally utilise the potential of tourism of Balochistan.

In the long term, there is oil and gas, the biggest natural advantage this province has in comparison to other provinces. We are working on exploring the gas and oil reserves.

Lastly, I would like to say that we are working to make Balochistan a province that is socioeconomically self-sufficient in terms of its revenue, capacity and infrastructure; where universities and colleges are excellent; where healthcare facilities are upgraded; and where business opportunities of each area are explored, from mining to orchard growing to agriculture to marine life to livestock. All these components in unison should attract future investment from within Pakistan and other countries.

Investment in Balochistan would ensure the prosperity of the people of Balochistan. It would also benefit Pakistan on the whole. We are working to make Balochistan safe for its people, for people who are here for work, and for investors. A safe Balochistan is our aspiration and our goal, inshaAllah. If all of this goes well, inshaAllah, we are hopeful that Balochistan will be the Emerging Balochistan that would attract innumerable good things from the rest of the country and from other countries. Our Emerging Balochistan with its peaceful environment and excellent economic indicators will be of great service to its people and the rest of Pakistan. InshaAllah.

Mehr Tarar, Special to Gulf News-1592296810288


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