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Why Is Pakistan's Balochistan Shut Out of Its Own Natural Gas Reserves?

Quetta, Pakistan. 12 December 2011 -- Residents of Pasthoonbagh Nechari road gather at Sui Southern Gas Company office to protest against low pressure of Sui gas in their area in Quetta. Photo by ppiimages. Copyright Demotix

Quetta, Pakistan. 12 December 2011 — Residents of Pasthoonbagh Nechari road gather at Sui Southern Gas Company office to protest against low pressure of Sui gas in their area in Quetta. Photo by ppiimages. Copyright Demotix

This post was written by Feroz Jan in Urdu and translated by Salman Latif for PakVoices. An edited version appears below.

Balochistan is the most underdeveloped province of Pakistan, and Dera Bugti is one of the most underdeveloped parts of this province. In Dera Bugti is located Sui, the area which has come to be the backbone of Pakistan’s economy.

Natural gas was discovered at Sui gas field in 1952 and by 1955, this gas was being supplied to different parts of Pakistan. Being discovered in the Sui fields, natural gas in Pakistan came to be called ‘Sui gas’. The two leading state-owned distribution gas companies in Pakistan go by the names ‘Sui Southern Gas Company‘ and ‘Sui Northern Gas Company.’

It is important to note here that the first provinces to get supply from Sui gas were Punjab and Sindh. On the other hand, 60 years have elapsed since the discovery and yet, only 14 townships in the 30 districts of Balochistan enjoy natural gas supply. Sui, the town which is a mere four miles from the gas discovery site, itself has no gas supply and people are forced to use wood and coal as fuel.

Even in the provincial capital of Balochistan, Quetta, Sui gas supply came as late as 1970. Then in 1990, Hub was also provided gas supply because it had become an industrial area.

Despite being the site of Sui gas, Balochistan continues to be shut out of the supply. Balochistan Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Mr. Jam Kamaal recently said, ‘We are considering the option of importing Sui gas from Iran’ — meaning that he was unaware that ‘Sui gas’ is a name specifically ascribed to the gas extracted from Sui gas fields, and that any natural gas imported from Iran will simply be natural gas.

The ridiculous statement also reflects a serious problem: that the federal and provincial governments seemingly have no plans of ensuring more widespread gas supply in Balochistan and rather look to foreign imports to meet the province's fuel needs.

It is pertinent to note that Article 158 of Pakistan’s Constitution reads:

Article 158. Priority of requirements of natural gas.
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.

Which simply means that the discovery of any natural resources must first benefit the province where the discovery has been made. Sadly, the inverse is true in the case of Balochistan and its Sui gas field.

Some argue that given the scattered settlements and rough terrains in Balochistan, it is a problem to ensure gas supply to these remote areas. However, Sui gas is being supplied to some of the remotest areas of Punjab and Sindh provinces.

Below are some statistics about gas consumption in Pakistan, taken from Pakistan Annual Energy Book 2007:

Province Production (MCFT) Total % Consumption %
Balochistan 374,161 40 66,477 2
Sindh 536,452 54 386,262 38
Punjab 67,691 0.6 6395,388 44
KPK Nil Nil 24,138 2

According to the Energy Yearbook estimates of 2007, Balochistan accounted for 25-26% of the total natural gas production in Pakistan, down from a 56% share in 1995. That same year, Balochistan consumed nearly 5.81% of this total national produce. Since Sui gas fields are the only gas fields in Balochistan engaged in active production, they account for the province's entire share in natural gas.

Being deprived of a fair share of Sui gas for the last 60 years is one of the key grievances of the people of Balochistan. And from the looks of it, this will continue to be the case.

These days, numerous promises are being made to turn the city of Gwadar into a hub of industry, trade and development. But the sad fact is that Gwadar lacks some of the most basic amenities such as clean water. Not only that, only some 10% of the population enjoys gas supply while the rest wait for the fulfillment of grand promises.

In the absence of gas supply, people in Gwadar have to buy wood, coal and petrol to meet their fuel needs. A resident of Gwadar express their views on this issue in the following words (translation is below):

Q: What difficulties do you have to face due to lack of domestic Sui gas supply in Gwadar?

Zahid Baloch: Domestically, we have a dire need for Sui gas supply. In its absence, we have to resort to burning wood for household fuel needs. There are areas where Sui gas is available in Gwadar but these are areas where bigwig politicians and the elites reside.

But in our homes and areas, there is no such supply. Some houses along Airport Road also have access to Sui gas but again, these are households which are rich. On the other hand, the poor who are most urgently in need of a more affordable fuel, are the ones who are not provided Sui gas.

Today, the Pakistani state should consider the fact that Balochistan, being the producer of Sui gas, deserves to benefit from it fairly. Steps taken towards meeting this demand would diminish the sense of deprivation that is widely felt by the people of Balochistan.

On the other hand, continuing the policy of discrimination against Balochistan by depriving it of its rightful share in natural resources will only widen the gulf of distrust between the people of Balochistan and the rest of the country.

  • Biased

    So it begins…..Xi announces 46 Billion dollar plan and touchy-feely stories about the poor Baluch citizens being deprived. Wonder if any cry-me-a-river articles are being written about Northern Scotts who do not see any of the North Sea oil the English squirrel away year after year.

    Perhaps more gas can be supplied to Gwadar if the Baluch stop killing the people laying them and blowing up the pipes.

    • Baloch

      Why u people think that the whole world is lying Except Punjabis. just one word for u Mr Biased …..asshole
      From a Baloch

      • Ghulam Lone

        Why are left wing Balochis killing laborers and then complaining that they are so underdeveloped?

        Balochi population patterns are mostly to blame – it is expensive to bring services to such a small and widely dispersed region, and it’s only cities are in high altitude rugged cities. The plains of punjab Sindh and KPK are decently developed, but mountainous regions are always most backwards – even in India and Iran.

      • Biased

        Stop crying and get a job. If you do not like working then go to Sistan or Nimruz. Gwadar is going to have ALL peoples of Pakistan-better learn to play nice.

  • Ghulam Lone

    How can a poor country supply gas to a huge and sparsely populated region? Sui is far closer to punjabi and Sindhi cities than Balochi ones like Gwadar with are one thousand kilometer away; Sui is on the border with punjab. Further, balochistan a only major city, Quetta, is 5000 feet in elevation higher than Sui – can pakistan really afford to build a pipeline there? And let’s not forget that left wing Baluchi are blowing up pipelines and killing laborers working on basically any infrastructure project, so who are they to complain?

    • Anti rhetoric

      Lone sahab, by that yardstick, let’s not provide education, clean water, health facilities, hospitals, employment opportunities and any other form of development to entire Balochistan since it is a ‘rugged terrain’ and not suited for development. Let’s carry on development only in areas which are easier to develop, regardless of the fact that Balochistan is geographically the largest province of Pakistan, also potentially the most mineral-rich.
      The problem with Pakistan’s policy is that development is somehow tied to the population. Even if Balochistan has a tiny population, compared to other provinces, it is a part of Pakistan, is it not? And it’s people have as much right to the facilities as any other citizen in Pakistan, do they not? Then why such arguments?
      As for the militants killing people in Balochistan, that is wrong. So are army’s actions in Balochistan over the last few decades.

      • Biased

        Do Russian citizen in Siberia enjoy facilities comparable to Moscovites? Do Assam and Bihar have a hospitals like Delhi? Is life as comfortable in Alaska as it is in Philadelphia? Any mature person would understand how nations develop unequally. Why complain now when billions are being invested towards prosperity? One has to wonder what is your game?

        • Antirhetoric

          Is Alaska an information-dark region? Do the rest of the world know nothing about culture, history, traditions, nationalistic views (if any) of Alaska? Do people in Alaska lack basic facilities, though? You can go see the state of development in the provincial capital Quetta (if, for a second, we admit the argument that remote areas deserve no development).
          Also, ‘wonder what is your game’ is a typical response of hawkish nationalists who will admit absolutely nothing against their views on nationalism and statehood. It smells of a tendency to instantly label others as traitors, foreign agents etc. There is no game here, please move along if that’s what you seek. This is simply an effort to bring to light the plight of a people which has, since ever, been ignored in national media.
          I will also state here that I don’t buy the typical anti-Punjabi rhetoric of every problem related to Baluchistan, that is an invalid viewpoint imo. But state has a responsibility, its citizen has rights on it, and to deny those rights by citing other parts of the world is a neglect. Especially if the state is benefiting immensely from the region in question and it’s not just a barren wasteland. (PakVoices has also done pieces on the plight of Cholistanis in this ongoing project: do you see a game there as well?)

          • Biased

            Indulging your childish innocence: so you think you know Alaska? Have you meet the natives – Eskimos who have survived the Caucasian onslaught on their land?? I would love to take you with me when I go trekking next time. The situation there is analogus to Pakistanis of Punjabi, Pashtun, Seraiki, Sindhi, Balti origin settle by the millions in Gwadar and build other large cities then shove the Baluch to the north west triangle into a small “tribal territories” for the “natives”. Where did I say remote areas “DESERVE” no development? Again you suffer from preconceived notions. Interestingly you have not questioned the backwardness of Siberians?
            The best thing to do for a Baluch is drop the weapon and pick up a shovel to join the construction or a book to educate himself.
            Do you know how much did US pay to buy Alaskans?

          • Antirhetoric

            Your analogy only belie your intentions – that apparently, a mass emigration takes away the rights of the natives, and that is fair. Needless to say, that’s a dumb view, meant only to reassert the unjust attitudes of the states.
            Regarding your stupid analogy – eskimos, really? So you are comparing the millions of Balochs to the eskimos? Do you really mean that the millions of Balochs have no rights whatsoever in the Pakistani state because, well, they live somewhere in a rough terrain?
            I entirely agree, the best thing for a baloch to do is to be a part of the development process, educate himself and be on the road to progress. But what can he do if he has no fucking schools, no hospitals, if every development project comes with pre-appointed individuals from the rest of the country? Stop living under a rock and please read up on exactly why the Baloch feel so discriminated against. A bit of information tends to really help the horizons of thought. Coming with a pre-installed trigger of ‘Oh this must be a conspiracy’ and ‘Oh well, can’t be helped, those millions are too remote to be helped’ are stupid notions that are unbelievable for someone who claims to be a citizen of the 21st century.

          • Biased

            Once again its like talking to a child who thinks he has power of leverage by throwing a tantrum. Grow up and smell the concrete being laid. So you think 5-8 million Baluch are more important than 2 million Alaskans? Your arguments are all over the place and all you want is for the whole World to stop and sympathiize with you and affirm your claim of discrimination-then what? And I am under a rock!
            Little child! Grow up and face reality. The world is an unfair place. Little communities, nations, ethnicities get subsumed by bigger ones in the name of progress and development-you asked for it now you will see it. Three years hence remember what I said………

          • Antirhetoric

            Also, please read the entry on Alaska on Wikipedia, and then read the entry on Balochistan. Are you really going to compare the two? (I hope the next thing you say wouldn’t be an aspersion cast on the veracity of Wikipedia)

          • Biased

            If you want to have an intelligent discourse, try reading real works of scholarship. History of Alaska and her natives is well documented through Czarist invasions. Get out of the Dera and get to nearest US library.

  • goldconsumer

    I have always wanted to have answers to few questions that I have read about here and there.
    First of all, when Sui gas was discovered, guess who was the governor and the whole sole responsible person of Balochistan?? The great Akber Bugti. The symbol of Baloch rights at present..
    Now, under any circumstances, unless you have an IQ of 10, if you are in such a position as Mr. Bugti you would definitely want your people to prosper when such a wealth is being found from the very place you are the sardar. Don’t you? You would go for building infrastructures, set up industries and invite people not just from Pakistan but the rest of the world to help you out. This is called, the Arab model and I am not discussing IQ of Arabs here in general..
    But we all know what happened. For a refresher, the agreement of gas transfer by which the federal government set up SSGC and SNGC was signed none other by Mr. Bugti himself. Now why does the educated Baloch class like the blogger dig up about that? A few months back Mr. Talal Bugti has registered a case against Musharraf to have his name in the ECL. But he never finds time to challenge this in any court of Pakistan till date?
    Now lets go ahead with what happened later.
    Gas was pumped mainly to Punjab. Industrial hubs were built in Gujrat, Lahore, Faisalabad etc all turning the dust (cheap sui gas) in gold. Then all of a sudden after seeing all the progress Punjabis made, Mr Bugti realsed that the gas selling rate was too low. When he challenged Mr. Bhutto ( a sindhi by the way). He bombed him. Just like he had bombed Mujeeb ur Rehman!

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