Balochistan to set up markets in frontier region with Iran, Afghanistan

In this photograph taken on January 7, 2017, Pakistan security personnel look on as travellers wait to cross the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan at Chaman. (AFP)
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Updated 22 January 2020

Balochistan to set up markets in frontier region with Iran, Afghanistan

  • Minister Utmankhail says industrialization in the province vital in the absence of agricultural activities
  • The province’s industries will also help promote its mineral resources, points out the minister

KARACHI: Balochistan’s provincial administration plans to open border markets near Iran and Afghanistan to ensure the socio-economic development of the frontier region and curb criminal activities, such as drug trafficking and terrorism, in the area, authorities said on Wednesday.

Balochistan, the southwestern province of Pakistan, is largest in terms of the landmass and smallest with regard to its population. The area also has some of the worst socioeconomic indicators in the country. To cope with the situation, the provincial government has decided to set up industries and open border markets in the region.

“In the first stage, we will open border markets at Badini, Chaman and Kech areas of the province,” said Muhammad Khan Toor Utmankhail, provincial minister for industries and commerce, adding that the establishment of 13 markets at different border points with Iran and Afghanistan would help socioeconomic development and bring down crime and violence in the area.

“Once functional, most likely by the end of the year, the markets will employ thousands of people from border districts and other underdeveloped regions of the province,” Utmankhail told Arab News.

“A prosperous Balochistan will guarantee a peaceful Balochistan,” he continued, adding: “A peaceful Balochistan will, in turn, result in a peaceful and prosperous Pakistan.”

The minister also urged the central government and three provincial administrations to step forward and help Balochistan with its economic initiatives.

Utmankhail said the land to set up these markets was already available and feasibility studies were being conducted.

“Consultants are making sure that these border markets are modern, fulfilling all the necessary requirements of the present day,” he informed, adding that funds would be allocated in the next fiscal budget for the purpose.

“The markets will be used to export and import goods and raw materials from neighboring Iran and Afghanistan,” Utmankhail said. “This will regularize commercial activities with proper custom procedures and discourage illegal border trade.”

He said the provincial government was also planning to present the industrial area of Quetta, Bostan, Chaman, Killa Saifullah, Loralai, Khuzdar, Hub, Gaddani, Turbat, Panjgur, and Dalbadin for investment. “In addition to that, we are setting up three special industrial zones in Loralai, Khuzdar, and Chaghi. Each one of them will create 30,000 jobs,” he said.

The minister added that the province desperately required industrial activities since its agricultural sector was not performing well.

“Almost 70 percent of our 12 million population depends on agriculture,” he informed, “but almost 50 percent of agriculture has vanished due to scarcity of underground water. We have to cope with this situation. Our people need livelihood and we are going to set up more industries, especially of marble, granite and other minerals, and offer them for direct sale in the international market.”

“People who do not have means to earn decent livelihood usually opt for criminal activities, such as drug peddling, militancy, and terrorism. Many of our people have gone that way due to extreme poverty,” Utmankhail said, adding: “It’s now time for their return journey. A journey toward jobs, employment and peace.”


South Africa's Du Plessis says bubble life is not sustainable for players

Updated 23 January 2021

South Africa's Du Plessis says bubble life is not sustainable for players

  • South Africa's Du Plessis says bubble life is not sustainable for players
  • The South African player beleives Babar Azam and Shaheen Afridi can pose problems for his team

ISLAMABAD: South African cricketer Faf du Plessis believes spending months in a bio-secure bubble could soon become a major challenge for players.

“We understand that this is a very tough season and a tough challenge for a lot of people out there, but if it’s back-to-back-to-back bubble life, things would become a big challenge,” du Plessis said during a virtual news conference on Saturday.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, cricketers have to adhere to strict procedures for an international series. In countries like Pakistan, international games are being played in empty stadiums and players' movement confined to just their hotel and stadiums.

Du Plessis is one of those South African cricketers, along with captain Quinton de Kock, to have experienced life in a bubble over the last few months. He played in the Indian Premier League in the United Arab Emirates and home series against Sri Lanka. Now he has a two-test series in Pakistan, starting Tuesday in Karachi, followed by the second test at Rawalpindi.

“The main priority is to play cricket, to be out there doing what we love instead of being at home … so I think that still remains the most important thing. But I think there would definitely come a point where players would struggle with this (bubble)," du Plessis said.

“If you look at a calendar of the last eight months, you’re looking at about four or five months in a bubble, which is a lot. For some of us (being) without family, it can get challenging. Right now, I’m still in a good place. I’m still feeling really motivated and driven, but I can only speak for myself.

“I don’t think it’s possible to continue from bubble to bubble to bubble, I’ve seen and heard a lot of players talk about it. I don’t think it’s sustainable.”

The South African team practiced at the National Stadium -- the venue for the test opener -- for the first time on Saturday. Before that, the visitors had been practicing at a stadium close to the team hotel for the last four days where they played intra-squad matches.

“For now, (I'm) enjoying the four walls of my room and then the pitch outside where we can get to do what we love,” du Plessis said.

The 36-year-old du Plessis, who has appeared in 67 test matches for South Africa with a batting average topping 40, will be playing his first test in Pakistan since making his debut against Australia in 2012. Pakistan last hosted South Africa in 2007. In 2009 international cricket’s doors were shut on Pakistan after an attack on the Sri Lanka cricket team bus at Lahore.

Du Plessis has played seven test matches against Pakistan that included two in the UAE and five in South Africa.

Du Plessis is South Africa’s most experienced player touring Pakistan, but wasn’t sure what type of wickets will be prepared for the two tests.

“I think that’s possibly the biggest thing that we are unsure about,” he said.

“As a team we try to prepare for everything and anything, overprepare, spin conditions, reverse swinging ball … if I have to call it, I probably said I think that wickets will be a bit more subcontinent like than it used to be back then (in 2007), so spinners would probably be more a little bit more in the game.”

Du Plessis has picked fit-again Pakistan all-format captain Babar Azam and fast bowler Shaheen Afridi as the two players who could pose problems for the tourists. Babar has regained fitness from a fractured thumb — in his absence Pakistan lost both the Twenty20 and test series in New Zealand.

“Obviously, having Babar back is massive for them,” du Plessis said.

“Afridi has been getting a lot of wickets, so probably someone like him would be pretty dangerous.”