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Baloch politicians threaten to cut-off gas supply as friction with Islamabad rises

Discontent against Pakistan is rising among Balochistan polity (Photo: Twitter)

Pakistan’s precarious financial situation is causing friction with Balochistan which is teetering on the verge of collapse as Pakistan has not paid outstanding finances to its poorest state for the last two years.

Now Finance Minister Zmarak Achakzai has threatened the federal government with suspension of gas supply to Pakistan if Islamabad does not pay outstanding dues to Balochistan. The threat was made during discussions in the legislative assembly earlier this week.

The minister warned that if the dues are not restored, he would request Chief Minister Abdul Quddus Bizenjo to deploy 200 personnel from the paramilitary forces to stop the supply of gas to the rest of the country. Achakzai said: “We want our constitutional share in the National Finance Commission Award share”.

Access to gas in Balochistan

Not just the finance minister, even other ministers have been asserting themselves against Pakistan, asking for its dues. Chief Minister Bizenjo too had earlier requested Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to release finances as well as supply the province with wheat flour.

Putting down exact numbers, provincial Minister for Agriculture Mir Asadullah Baloch had earlier remarked that Islamabad has not paid Rs 40 billion (Pakistani rupees) for the current financial year and Rs 11 billion for the previous financial year. He added that Balochistan wants a “suitable share of assistance for the rehabilitation of flood affectees pledged by global partners in the donors conference held in Geneva”.

In a latest sign of friction developing between local political leaders and the Pakistan government, even the Baloch opposition joined in demanding that Islamabad address the financial problems confronting Pakistan’s least developed region.

Reminding Prime Minister Sharif, who had visited Balochistan and made several promises including talking to the establishment about stopping enforced disappearances, Zabit Reki, member of the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam party said: “We want justice”, adding that Sharif had failed to fulfill his promises regarding Balochistan.

The province has not been able to pay salaries to its employees.

The Baloch community is sensitive about the fact that it has the worst human development indices in the world, and is the poorest province in Pakistan, despite sitting on mineral wealth worth billions in gold, copper, coal and gas deposits. The feeling of alienation and economic exploitation among the Baloch people is now seeping among its politicians.

Gas was discovered in Balochistan in 1952 with the Sui Gas field amounting to 17 per cent of Pakistan’s total gas production. The Baloch themselves get very little of this gas as it is piped to other parts of Pakistan.

If Baloch politicians actually implement their threat of cutting off the gas supply, Pakistan’s domestic and industrial sectors will witness a calamitous turmoil.

Also read: Iran, not China, comes to the rescue of power-starved Balochistan