Defining the contours of a spatial strategy for Balochistan
Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest province by area and the least inhabited in terms of population. It is endowed with abundant natural resources (such as coal, copper, and gold) and is the largest supplier of natural gas. Two-thirds of the country’s coastline is also along its southern border. It sits at the intersection of key regional trade routes and corridors and hence has a very strategic location. Despite its location and resources, it is one of Pakistan’s poorest and most underdeveloped regions. Of the five poorest districts across Pakistan, four are in Balochistan.
An array of conflicts have emerged in the last two decades, plunging parts of the province into sustained instability. Compounding these issues are the province’s severely underdeveloped socio-economic base, as it continues to lag on all indicators of human capital and economic investment.
Furthermore, in Balochistan public investments, especially in infrastructure, are typically made without consideration of locational advantages, existing clusters or human settlement patterns. The continued inequitable distribution of scarce financial resources has further perpetuated regional inequality within the province, leading to an influx of migrants towards the only major city in the province i.e. Quetta – leading to rapid and unsustainable urbanisation.
These factors highlight the need for a long-term development strategy that takes into account recent developments and is underpinned by a spatial framework that responds to Balochistan’s needs and strengths to guide provincial budgetary allocations.