Balochistan’s New Winter Capital
The government of Balochistan has decided to make the port city of Gwadar as the winter capital of the resource-rich province. Gwadar has remained a controversial as well as a promising city since China assisted the government of Pakistan with the construction of a port there during the previous government of General Pervez Musharraf.
The port in Gwadar has not been operational years after its completion because of lack of other necessary infrastructure which is extremely important to connect the city with the rest of the country.
The Chief Minister of Balochistan, Nawab Mohammad Aslam Raisani, has been paying special attention to the project of shifting the capital to Gwadar during the winter season. Although the decision had been made last year, the process is being expedited this year under the supervision of the Chief Minister. At a news conference in Quetta on Tuesday, provincial Chief Secretary Ahmed Baksh Lehri also dispelled the impression that the plan was being implemented on the advice of a foreign country. He said the provincial government had taken the decision while considering the interests of the people of Balochistan.
The shifting of the capital, at least during the winter, will give impetus to the Gwadar Port and the government will be required to rapidly develop whatever infrastructure is needed for a capital city. For a long time, Gwadar required a big push to jump-start its economic activities and rise as a modern city. Gwadar is the hub of future economic development and has the potential of serving as a modern capital city. It is peaceful and less congested as compared to the summer capital i.e. Quetta.
A change in the capital city does not necessarily improve the quality of governance. While the government of Balochistan is currently caught up with an embarrassing and appalling situation of bad governance, it should still be encouraged to proceed with the shifting of capital city in Gwadar. An ideal capital should be easily accessible for the people of the area. We sincerely hope that the government prioritizes the transportation sector and makes Gwadar accessible to rest of the country.
The objective of the winter capital must, at least at the beginning, remain confined to providing Balochistan an alternative, stable administrative city. The move should not be hastily converted into an opportunity to pave the way for non-Balochs to rush to the area to convert the Baloch majority into a minority by acquiring fake identity cards. Any mega city is likely to attract a lot of outsiders but the rules of the game should be very clearly defined as long as the issue of identification and documentation of non-locals is concerned. If the government wants to hastily convert Gwadar into an administrative capital and economic hub, it is likely to make some mistakes against the interests of the local people. The future of Gwadar should be decided step by step.
Gwadar will remain controversial as long as the reservations of Baloch nationalists are not fully addressed. The government should make sure that the people of Balochistan receive due share from the economic benefits of the port in Gwadar.We fully agree with the Chief Minister that the issue of the winter capital should not be politicized. Some sections of the Pashtun population in Balochistan are suspiciously viewing this plan without having any solid reasons to back their fears. They should welcome the move and consider it as a positive step toward a better future of Balochistan. A new capital city should not harm the centuries-old Baloch-Pashutn brotherly relations as this decision is not intended to deprive Quetta, a Pashtun-majority city, of its glory and importance.
Chief Minister Raisani deserves appreciation for taking a bold decision about the future of Gwadar and he should make sure that the shifting of the capital is not delayed due to bureaucratic hurdles. This process should be completed quickly. We urge all stakeholders in the province to back the Chief Minister’s decision which will hopefully have long-term positive implications. (Courtesy: The Baloch Hal).