Crippling Gas Shortage in Balochistan

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Mubarak Faryad

With the world’s fifth major reserves of gold and copper and major oil and gas reserves. Balochistan is strategically significant for Pakistan’s economy.
It is, however, a matter of great misfortune that despite being the owner of such natural resources, Balochistan is reeling under the worst gas crisis in its history. That despite the lack of availability of gas in houses, people are being sent unbelievably high bills reflecting a significant price hike speaks volumes about the tragedy of millions living in the downtrodden province. This should be realised that the gas shortage is not a problem exclusively faced by Balochistan as it is experienced all over Pakistan. Still, the authorities need to realise the significantly harsh nature of the winter spell in Balochistan. Many people living in the rural areas of Balochistan and even in urban areas are confronting several problems with fuel in winter. In most houses, children are forced to leave for school without breakfast in the morning. Many a time, the unavailability of gas forces them to stay hungry all afternoons. The missing nutrition is closely linked with health concerns and can also be attributed to a lack of attention during school hours.
The situation has always been this dismal for as far as one can remember. Until 2017, the province of Balochistan provided almost a quarter of the national gas supply; having been Pakistan’s largest supplier till around the turn of the century. In 1952, natural gas was discovered in Sui, a small town in the Dera Bugti District of Balochistan. Ever since then, government after government rushed to make use of the supplies to drive the engine of growth but conveniently overlooked the problems of the mothership in the process. The Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC), named so in 1980, takes the supplies from the gas field to the entire country, with the exception of the area it originated from.
Even today, Sui itself does not enjoy the luxury of availing gas directly from the fields with a daily supply of 800 mmcf; only four miles away. According to Balochistan Assembly Opposition Leader Malik Sikandar, “They took away gas from us in the 1950s and gave it to Punjab and Sindh without even connecting it to Dera Bugti; not receiving the gas produced.”
Further, it may be pertinent to note what Article 158 of Constitution states: “The province in which a well-head of natural gas is situated shall have precedence over other parts of Pakistan in meeting the requirements from the well-head, subject to the commitments and obligations as on the commencing day.”
The lack of supply of gas to Balochistan is a violation of the constitutional guarantee enshrined in Article 158.
In essence, more than half of the population living in Balochistan is living below the poverty line and deprived of basic needs. Those who can afford alternative sources may be able to manage with the provision of natural gas but the poor, who cannot even afford to eat three meals a day, are in no shape to go through the day.
Today, Balochistan is well on its way to backwardness because it is not getting any benefits from its natural resources. It is the responsibility of the government to grant equal rights to the poor people of Balochistan. The concerned authorities should supply gas and other facilities throughout Balochistan so that the people can reap full advantages and live calm and peaceful lives.

The writer is a student at DELTA, in Turbat.