An exclusive interview with CM Balochistan Jam Kamal Khan

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Jam Mir Kamal Khan Alyani is the president of Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) and the 16th Chief Minister of Balochistan, in office since August 19, 2018. He holds a degree in Marketing from Greenwich University, Karachi. He has previously served as the Federal Minister of State, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources and is the third Person from his family to be elected as CM Balochistan. Kamal’s grandfather Jam Mir Ghulam Qadir Khan was elected CM of the Province in 1972, while his father Jam Mir Muhammad Yousaf served as the Provincial CM in 2002.

Q: The Federal Govt. has made Tourism a priority for this year. How is the present govt. working to improve tourism in Balochistan?
CM Jam Kamal:
 Balochistan has a very vast coast of around 700 km, we have a lot of unutilized beaches that have potential for tourism. Similarly, there are many sites that are attractive as cultural and historical heritage sites. It’s true that the last few governments have not worked on tourism. However, it is necessary to have a clear idea of what kind of tourism we want to attract in Balochistan.
The typical concept of tourism in Pakistan is that of foreign tourists, whereas I have a different definition of it for Balochistan. We cannot have foreign tourists coming into the country until we promote domestic tourism. When tourist sites get domestic tourists, they begin getting used to it. We can understand the need for facilities, trained hospitality staff and human resource in the area to uplift tourism.
To tackle this, for the first time in Balochistan, we are forming a Tourism Authority. This Authority will assess the potential for tourism in the province and then we can begin planning facilities zone-wise. Initially, we want to attract tourists from Karachi, because of its close proximity to the coast.
Attracting even 1% of Karachi’s population of approximately 3 million would make a huge difference. We have identified three categories of tourists there. The first are those who make day trips to the coast, the second spend one to two nights there and the third would plan vacations to this area. Similarly, there are categories of the consumers’ financial capability. We would like to cater to all of these categories.
Ziarat is another tourism opportunity, away from the coast, with its scenic beauty and unprecedented snowfall. We also have multiple historical heritage sites. Many are unaware that the coast track in Balochistan is the same one Alexander the Great used centuries ago, similarly we can capitalize on the Mehrgarh civilization remains and other heritage sites.
However first, we need to figure out what products we can give the tourists in terms of experiences and services. Another integral aspect of this is security. We are working on these themes and have identified around 6 to 7 zones in Balochistan with potential for tourism. We will first target domestic tourism and then expand into foreign tourists as well.

Q: The last KPK government worked on tourism as well and part of their model was to empower the locals, train them and even fund some tourism related projects. Do you think that same model may be applied in Balochistan?
CM Jam Kamal: 
Yes, it definitely can. The difference between KP and Punjab, and Balochistan is that their populations are relatively more financially sound and their human resource capacity is also much higher since they have a more mature tourism consumer market. Balochistan has a much younger market in these terms. Human resource capacity can be built when the people being trained have facilities they can work at. Balochistan doesn’t have a very lucrative restaurant and hoteling culture, in comparison to the rest of the country.
However, one benefit we have is that people from the Makran belt and Gwadar have travelled to the Gulf and Middle East, therefore, they have better knowledge of how the industry operates and are a lot more open minded in these terms.
Providing financial assistance to tourism related businesses in these areas is a little difficult for the government at this point in time. However, what we can do is facilitate them in terms of infrastructure and security, while they manage the rest through private investors.

Q. One of the issues Quetta city faces is traffic; and we’ve heard that action is being taken to resolve it. What exactly is being done to resolve the issue?
CM Jam Kamal: 
 Yes, Quetta has a lot of issues and the reason for that is that the city does not have a master plan yet. When a city does not have a master plan, we don’t know exactly what needs to be done and how to go about it. The development of Quetta city has been done in small parts in the past, when one project or another has come through the PSDP (public sector development program). However, none of those projects have been planned, and when these things aren’t planned it is difficult to gauge exactly what is and isn’t present. That is the basic problem in Quetta city and traffic management is definitely a part of that.
When we initially took charge, we realized that the last time any traffic lights had been installed was around 30 years ago, and most of those don’t even work anymore. A few traffic lights had been installed on a test basis to gauge how and if the traffic would improve.
In order to improve the state of traffic in the city, it is necessary to first establish a Traffic Bureau. Balochistan has no traffic laws, therefore, even when you do fine someone for a traffic violation, it doesn’t really apply by law. So, the person can just go to court and get the fine waived.
We are now carrying out assessments of the traffic system and laws, once those are completed, we will establish a proper Traffic Bureau as well as regulations.
It is definitely difficult to fathom how a city operates without proper traffic regulations in the 21st century. But, it is something we have made a priority.

Q. We’ve been hearing about the Complaint cell for a while. Why do you think it has not been able to function properly yet?
CM Jam Kamal: Yes, there are some weaknesses in the present complaint cell.
We have a Complaint Management System in the Education department that needs some modification, which we feel can be replicated in other departments as well.
The system at the CM Secretariat is very basic, which we plan to modify into an application or web-based system. We are already in talks with a company for this.
We want the public to have an accessible and interactive portal to submit their complaints. It should be a responsive, automated system which can engage me as a Chief Minister and the government as well. This way we can know whether or not it is producing results. In the meantime, we have a Complaint cell system via Twitter that I can personally address and read feedback from.
All of this, of course, is in addition to the very basic Complaint management system that exists in local governments where citizens can take up their complaints with their representative who can then address it.

Q. Missing persons finally coming back to their homes is one of your government’s biggest successes. Do you believe that it would help facilitate better public perception?
CM Jam Kamal: Missing persons has become a much politicized issue, it has been exaggerated beyond what the reality is. We need to be clear on how we define who a “Missing person” is. Let us first go back to why this came up as an issue.
Like any other nation, Pakistan is also responsible for its citizens as well as the sovereignty of the state. Globally, there’s no country in the world where there is no consequence for anti-state activity. Pakistan has also had its fair share of groups and individuals that have gone against the law and the state, but were expecting no retribution in return.
I think that Pakistan, as a nation, has an immense capacity to absorb criticism. However, when things go beyond a certain extreme, a state has to react in its own way. It’s important to be able to gauge how authentic the claims of a person being missing are and according to what format we should be judging them. Should we be following the UN guidelines? Those of the locals who make those claims? Of the political parties? There are so many groups that provide their own numbers for this as a criticism of the state. Many of these so-called “missing persons” are people who are living abroad and propagating anti-state narratives.
One of the only authentic missing persons platform is the ‘International Voice for Baloch Missing Persons’, founded by Mama Qadeer, who we have been working with and have come to an understanding of missing persons. These are people whose families have been affected directly from the issue.
However, the perception has improved in the last decade because people are developing a better understanding of the phenomenon. It’s definitely an issue that needs to be addressed further in order to really make a difference in the public perception.

Q. Heavy rains after a long time caused flooding in various parts of the province, when earlier we were facing extreme water scarcity. Are you planning to take any action regarding better storage of rainwater?
CM Jam Kamal: 
Management is key. We need better planning, so that in the future we know how to store, manage and utilize rainwater rather than wasting it. The lack of planning is why we either have droughts or flooding. If we plan this out properly and build smaller dams in some of the areas that receive rainfall, we can store the water and utilize it over the next few years.
We are now working with SPARCO Pakistan. We’re using their satellite imagery to compare what the situation was 4 months ago and what it is like now. With that information we are gaining an understanding of how and where we could’ve stored the water. This way we can formulate plans for dams and water storage facilities in the future and address these issues of droughts and flooding.

Q. There’s still an electricity crisis all over the province. With many CPEC projects in the pipeline, are there any projects to help meet the energy requirements in southern Balochistan?
CM Jam Kamal:
The national grid of Pakistan does not connect to southern Balochistan. These are the Rakshan, Makran and Khuzdar divisions, which make up around 50% of Balochistan. These areas are receiving electricity from Iran and are completely dependent on it. The first step is a PSDP scheme that aims to connect these areas to the national grid. These areas also have a great potential for alternative and renewable energy through solar power plants.
There’s also more to this than just transmission of electricity. We need to focus on distribution and as well as commercial viability. This is where the DISCOs come in. These run on a purely commercial basis; they continue distribution so long as they receive profits.
Balochistan is a part of QESCO. But, since the people here do not have a lot of financial capability, they cannot always bare the high costs and QESCO will only distribute electricity as long as it gets returns. One solution for this is off-grid solar electricity facilities, which the government can plan for; though it is an expensive solution.
Another factor is population density. The density of population in Punjab, Sindh and, KPK is a lot greater than it is in Balochistan. It is easier to provide facilities to a large amount of people within a smaller area. Providing electricity over a larger network is more capital intensive, therefore it goes beyond commercially viability and fails to attract investment.
Currently, we are just trying to connect the south to the national grid system and improve the people’s fiscal capacity.

Q. What steps are you planning to take to develop an industrial area along the coastline in order to derive even more benefits from CPEC for the locals in that area?
CM Jam Kamal: 
It is a lot easier to make industrial zones close to Karachi, Gujranwala and Sialkot etc. because those areas have infrastructure, gas and electricity and, most importantly, human resource. Wherever we build an industrial zone, we need to transport human resource as well. This human resource will not move by themselves; they will move as families or they will need accommodation in labour colonies. So, we would need to facilitate them in those areas as well.
The coastal area in Balochistan is more ideal as a transit port system. Gwadar is very central to entering the Gulf Stream. Transportation of goods throughout this region is through ships. Gwadar is more viable as a strategic transit port or a petro-chemical port as it has access to the Gulf and even African ports. Industrial zoning in the area is a little ways down the road for now.

Q. There is a limited number of fields of study students can go into and there are no art and design schools in Balochistan. Are there any plans to add these fields to the curriculum?
CM Jam Kamal: 
There should definitely be a wider range for programs of study for students. There are a few very basic art and design programs at BUITEMS and I recently found out that there is a group in Gwadar that does 3D art. There are also a few local artists that teach art. But yes, I do feel that there should be more creative fields so that students here are not limited to just a few fields of study.

Q. You are on record saying that policies of previous governments have angered youth into seeking out violent solutions. Does your government plan on formulating policies for human and youth development?
CM Jam Kamal: A. Every age bracket and socio-economic class in society has different needs. However, there are certain basic amenities that all of these groups need to have fulfilled like shelter, food, education etc. When these needs are not fulfilled, it breeds frustration within the people. Left unaddressed for too long, this frustration eventually evolves into hatred and that is what has happened in Balochistan. If we plan things well, we can ensure that the youth benefit from it. Provisions for the youth are a large part of our policymaking process now. This includes entrepreneurship, sports, employment and social empowerment etc.

Q. While we’re on the subject of Human security and development, how is the government combating the problem of ghost schools?
CM Jam Kamal: It’s more about ghost teachers than ghost schools actually. There are so many schools in the province that, on paper, have employed teachers. However, an observation of the ground realities reveals that there aren’t any actual teachers at the schools. Many have been receiving their paychecks even though they have not been working.
Monitoring is the most important aspect of resolving this issue. We have initiated this process through Commissioners and Deputy Commissioners, who are to visit these schools and note how many teachers are actually coming.
An example of how this has been effective is Naseerabad, where around 144 schools were reopened. When it was observed that most of the teachers were not coming to schools, we started deducting from their paychecks. Within a month all of these teachers started showing up.
This is really about human nature. As long as they know they are observed and held accountable for their actions, the teachers will do their jobs properly.

Q. The opposition has talked about PSDP and speculated about its funds. You have also been on record endorsing probes and investigations into it. Why is there such an extreme distrust of it? Do you feel that it is presently functioning the way it needs to?
CM Jam Kamal:
For the first time in Balochistan, PSDP is being rationalized. For the past 4 to 5 months we have been going through the PSDP, developing an understanding of all the schemes and how they have been carried out in the past and how they should be carried out. We are gauging how many of these schemes have been completed and omitted, how many of these schemes are at 60 to 80% financial and physical completion etc.
Just to give you an idea, this year alone, we have made record authorizations of up to Rs. 30 billion for PSDP schemes. This June, In sha Allah, we will be completing 411 schemes that had been initiated up to 18 years ago.
Additionally, we have released Rs. 10 billion to departments to be spent on this PSDP. We are finding hidden schemes within some umbrella schemes and omitting them completely. We are also rationing finances into these schemes so that there is equal development in each district.
Another thing we are focusing on is planning the PSDP as per the requirements of the society. It is taking us some time but we want to be thorough and complete all beneficial schemes, and eradicate malpractice so we can move on to newer projects as well.

Q. What are some of the upcoming policies from your government? What are your priorities for this year?
CM Jam Kamal:
We have started an education program that builds 170 shelter schools on each district, more than 90 middle schools and 60 high schools. Each district will also have two model high schools that will further be expanded into higher secondary classes as well. We are establishing the 1122 emergency facilities on all highways. We have established a Food Authority which is beginning to implement its work. We are reforming the Building Code Authority which was last formed after the 1935 earthquake. Women’s Right to Succession bill is something we are working on, we have passed a law for the provision of Education and health as an essential need of the community. We are also trying to update the Forest Act which was formed in 1979. We are working on reforms and regulations for climate change. We are in the process of decentralizing finances to district authorities which has never been done before, so we can eradicate the trickle effect.

Q. What message would you like to give to our readers, specifically the youth?
CM Jam Kamal: The youth need to play a very vital role in any society. You have lived through such an important time in the country. You have seen the past and have learnt from it enough to work towards a brighter future. You’re all more educated, more aware, you are more adept to technology.
Give solutions. Contribute to the improvement of the system; learn about it. Seek out weaknesses and malpractice in the system and come up with solutions for them. You have an extremely vital role in building the future of our nation. I hope you can trust in your nation.
Many of you prefer to leave the country, which is the easy way out. Come back to your country and give back to your people.
It’s natural that when good, well-educated, sincere people leave someone will step up to fill that vacuum. That someone will not necessarily be a good person. Then we lose any right to complain about the state of our country because we ourselves, were not willing to contribute to it.
Yes, be ambitious, work hard to achieve your dreams. But, remember that there’s no place like home. Yes, we lack in many areas, but we are working to improve in those areas, but we need your help to do that. Pakistan Zindabad, Balochistan Paindabad

Interviewed by: Imaan Zia and Hamna Malik

 

 

 

 

 

 

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