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.”