Running Reko Diq

Chief Minister of Balochistan Nawab Aslam Raisani has welcomed the decision of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) to give charge of Reko Diq to the Balochistan government. While this decision is in line with the aspirations and long-standing demands of Baloch nationalists, there is still scepticism whether the provincial government would be able to see through this project. For one, it requires far greater finances than the Rs 120 billion that the Balochistan government expects to receive as gas development surcharge arrears. The development of this mine and related infrastructure would require about $500-550 billion, according to expert estimates. That Tethyan Copper Company Pakistan (Pvt) Limited has been awarded the contract only for exploration and not mining and refining is seen by Balochistan as an opportunity to take back the project. However, apart from finances, it would require a highly skilled workforce.

It may be an exaggeration to claim that Balochistan already has such personnel available, as Mr Raisani did, but it is perfectly within the realm of possibility to create such a skilled labour force under the guidance of hired experts. In fact, it is highly desirable to develop human resources to provide employment to local people and reduce our dependence on foreign assistance. Skills training of local people was initially part of Saindak gold and copper mines’ plan of development, but was not implemented when the project was handed over to a Chinese company in 2002. Had that been done, Balochistan would have had enough human resources to start this project without foreign help. Setting up technical training institutes with qualified teaching staff should be the first priority for Balochistan for undertaking this project.In another encouraging development, the Supreme Court has given a stay order on the sale of Gwadar land to private firms. The chief minister of Balochistan has filed a petition in the Supreme Court to scrap the contract awarded to a Singapore company to develop and run the port, because the decision had been taken without consulting the provincial government. It may be expected that the process of re-appropriation of Balochistan’s resources has started. Additionally, if the Balochistan government successfully runs these projects, it would go a long way in alleviating the complaints of Baloch nationalists, who feel that they are being deprived of the fruits of their resources – Dailytimes