Name: Agha Shahzaib Durrani
Hometown: Khuzdar, Balochistan
Party: Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N)
Tenure: March 2015 to March 2021
Seat: Technocrats including Ulema
Committee member: Chairperson Planning Development and Special Initiatives, Council of Chairpersons, Communications, Water Resources, Problems of Less Developed Areas and Power.
Q: You were selected on a technocratic seat from Balochistan. For those of us who don’t know, could you tell who is a technocrat and what purpose they serve in the Senate?
A: A technocracy is an ideological stance whereby government officials or policymakers, known as technocrats, are chosen on reserved seats in the Senate of Pakistan due to their technical skills or expertise in a specific domain. Decisions made by technocrats are meant to be based on information derived from data and objective methodology rather than opinion.
Q: As Chairperson of the Development Planning and Reforms committee, can you tell us about some of the development projects underway in Balochistan?
A: Numerous projects are going on in Balochistan and especially in CPEC project. Some important projects to be mentioned are:
i. Gwadar International Airport:A state of the art International Airport is under construction in Gwadar, which will give access to not only local countrymen but will be a gateway to international investors and tourists.
ii. Makran Transmission Line:At present, Gwadar and the neighbouring cities are being energized from transmission line coming from Iran. Thus, creating dependency need on Iran for power needs. To address this issue, the transmission line is under construction, which will connect Gwadar and neighbouring cities with the national grid. Hence, omitting the dependency from Iran.
iii. 330 MW coal-fired power plant: One of the major projects, which is underway is 330 MW coal-fired Power Plant, which will not only be catering the power needs of Gwadar but will also be energizing other parts of Balochistan.
iv. CPEC Western Route:The work on the western route is underway, which will connect Gwadar with the western and northern Balochistan and the needs of the country. Thus, providing more connectivity and more access to the people.
v. Construction of M-8 Motorway:The Construction of M-8 motorway is on the way to completion thus giving access to the Central Route of CPEC to the country and it will work on the backbone route of CPEC.
vi. Other major projects in Balochistan include:
■ 100 Small Dams to meet the thirsty needs of waters scares areas of Balochistan.
■ Higher Education: Establishment of a university at Sibi, Mir Chakar Khan Rind, Balochistan.
■ Masters leading to PhD Scholarships programme for students of Balochistan.
■ Establishment of Metal Park in Balochistan.
■ Kachhi Canal Project: Kachhi Canal Project is aimed for releasing water into the distribution system in Balochistan.
■ Construction of Basool Dam, Tehsil Omara, District Gwadar.
■ Balochistan Effluent Disposal into RBOD-I (RBOD-III), Jaffarabad.
Q: You’re a member of various Senate committees discussing issues that concern Balochistan, what can you tell us about the general attitude in the Senate towards Balochistan?
A: The general attitude of the Senate towards Balochistan is very much inclusive. Today, Senate of Pakistan is more aware of the problems of the province as compared to the past and not only the Senate is aware of the problems and deprivations, but it is trying hard to resolve the issues and address the deprivations faced during the last seven decades. All the Senators, especially from other provinces, have an integrated approach towards Balochistan. They give priority to Senators of Balochistan to raise the issues of the province and emphasize through their voice and actions to resolve those issues.
Q: You are also a member of the committee on Power as well as one for Problem of Less Developed Areas. What plans are in the works to provide power to the remotest areas in Balochistan?A: Balochistan is a dynamic province and power issue in the province is multifaceted. The 80% of Balochistan power sector consumption is in the commercial sector i.e. agriculture tube wells and 20% is for domestic usage. Due to non-payment issue by the commercial sector, the domestic consumers are suffering and facing the load-shedding. To resolve this issue, a survey is being conducted to solarize the tube wells so that the domestic consumers should not suffer from load-shedding. This will also assist the commercial sector by reducing the dependency on the national grid. This will also help to partially resolve the issue of circular debt related to the province.
Moreover, Balochistan has a scattered population, in terms of small towns and cities. The total population of the province, which is 12 million is living in rough, rugged and mountainous terrain which spreads on the area of 347,190 sq.km which makes it very complex to connect all the towns and cities with the national grid. So to resolve this issue, a dynamic approach is being taken to create self-sustaining power grids/generation facilities in the remote areas of the province by harnessing solar and wind energy. A detailed survey in this regard is being conducted, which will help to meet the power needs of the province.
Q: You’ve been a member of the Inter-Parliamentary Union of Young Parliamentarians, which among other things, works towards boosting the participation of youth in parliaments. What do you think about youth protesting all over the country?
A: Pakistan is one of the youngest countries in terms of population age. About 64% of the country’s population is below 30 years of age. The youth of the country is dynamic and vibrant equipped with knowledge and technology. However, they are facing multiple issues like limited access to the job markets and opportunities, limited entertainment resources, limited entrepreneurial approach of government, absence of creativity and innovation, poor health facility, unattainable meritocracy and nepotism, thus resulting in frustration and agitation among the youth, which is resulting in protest all over the country. In addition to this, the youth of Pakistan needs a forum to be heard to raise their issues and to highlight their concerns and if people are not given chances/forum to be heard, people will turn the road and squares into the forum as a protest.
Q: What do you think needs to be done, on a policy level to help prevent such situations in the future?
A: If the youth of Pakistan is provided easier access to the job markets, entertainment resources, good health facilities, meritocracy and opportunities for creativity and innovation, the maximum entrepreneurial approach of government, then they will play their role positively as they are talented, energetic and can perform better and ensure the growth of society in a befitting manner.
Q: Finally, as one of the younger members of the Senate, how do you think that sets you apart? What advantage does being younger than most senators warrant you that may encourage the youth of Balochistan to come forward?
A: Youth displays energy and talent equipped with technology. Many advantages are being a younger member of the Senate of Pakistan, the biggest is that the youngsters are more technology-friendly, confident and energetic. As I said earlier, around 64% of the population of Pakistan is less than 30 years, which makes it easier for a younger person to understand their issues and to be a bridge between senior members, policymakers, legislators and the youth to devise policies and to resolve their issues accordingly. It is easier for the younger members to comprehend the futuristic technologically advanced demands of the society.
As a young member, I am more inclined towards social media thus being very accessible to the general populous. Generally speaking, I can give more time and energy to my work till late hours to meet the day to day demands/assignments. The young members are usually more inclined to transnational border communication and diplomacy, which makes it much more convenient for them to be an ambassador of the country and earn goodwill for it at international fora. The young members are living in the age of modern science, Information Technology (IT) and artificial intelligence, thus we have more access to the information, which could be used to devise better policies and to do better legislation. Thus, I urge the youth of Balochistan to make the best out of their education and avail every opportunity possible to be able to contribute to the future of Balochistan.