District in darkness | By Ali Jan Maqsood


District in darkness

Just before the sunset, Naseema begins preparing for dinner in Bazdad village of Balochistan’s district of Awaran. She asks her children to do their school work before it is dusk while continues with her chores. She keeps a lantern beside her when she starts baking bread. She looks outside and quickens her work as she is late today, because she had gone to see someone in her next village who was not fine. She did not finish cooking when darkness spread. She turns on the lantern and cooks. At the same time, her children shout out to their mother asking for the only lantern to get their school work finished. Naseema wonders for a while and takes the lantern to her children.

From infrastructure to electricity and a proper education and health systems, Awaran district poses a dilemmatic picture of deprivations. Though Abdul Quddus Bizenjo, Chief Minister Balochistan, being the local of the district, has the provincial charge, he has not provided what the locals have ‘expected’ of him as CM.

“Because we have no electricity, I have to do all the work before it begins to darken,” says Naseema looking straight into my eyes with the hope that I can become her voice further. She spends a normal life which pushes her, following the general societal traditions, to do the works at home, as cooking, all alone. However, she finds her comfort when her husband (after he is at home) helps her with her preparations.

“I only visit my area on Eid because there is no electricity in my village,” says Akram Baloch, a resident of Mashkay studying Law in Quetta. He feels himself distracted from education in his village where electricity has ceased other developments such as internet and mobile network facilities which, as he believes, are fundamentals for education in the twenty first century. Although he wishes to travel his town on various occasions, a lack of the basics of life compels him to spend joyous days as a guest away from home. “Had there been electricity in my village, I would have spent more good times with my family members there,” he says with a frank smile of disheartened feeling.

“There wasn’t anything as electricity before, but sort of construction work is continued where combs are being erected,” says Naz Bibi (52) from Nokjo of tehsil Mashkay in Awaran, adding that she had listened from the people of the other villages that electricity was to arrive in these areas. But simultaneously, she feels dejected saying that the government would find a way to get over it. “I won’t say we will get electricity unless we actually get it,” she tells me with no faith on governmental projects.

A report of UNDP Pakistan with the assistance of Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) shows 71% of Balochistan’s population in the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI). Awaran, in such terms, resembles the province with 56% of the population (68,140 out of 1, 21,680 people as per census 2017) living below the poverty line. The district mourns for the basics of life considering the twenty first century. But unfortunately, they lack almost every amenity including electricity in this modern world. As a result of this poverty, many people in the district fail to buy solar systems for electricity. But when the same power is provided through a proper governmental channel, it helps them gain electricity and end up with their numerous grievances that a lack of energy creates. “Government has never been sincere with other projects, but considering the recent pace of work on electricity, it seems our district will lighten up someday soon,” narrates Akram with bright eyes, adding that 24000KV transmission wires are expected to provide electricity to the darkened district. If electricity comes, people below the poverty-line need not to look with thirsty eyes to those who afford buying solar systems.

“Everyone wants to have electricity by any means, but very few can actually get to their desires following the poverty ratio in my village,” he tells me. The CM Balochistan, Abdul Quddus Bizenjo, on the other hand, tells me that electricity in the mentioned region, exemplifying Makran particularly, arrived after the 2000s.

For facilitating his home district with energy, he had been putting efforts from the word go, he says. He adds that as he got on power, one among his other core works was to bring electricity facility to Awaran which, as he says, would soon become a reality. “Awaran will lighten up very soon,” promises the CM.

—The writer is contributing

columnist, based in Quetta and tweets at @Alijanmaqsood12