Social barriers against women disappearing in Balochistan
By Iftikhar A. Khan
QUETTA: Social barriers against women in Balochistan appear to be crumbling as an increasing number opt for learning skills which ensure their economic empowerment.
A number of girl students, during a media team’s visit to Pakistan army-run Balochistan Institute of Technical Education, here expressed their desire to establish their own businesses or join the teaching profession after learning skills in different disciplines.
Most of them are taking courses in make-up, cutting, sewing and embroidery as well as computer skills’ courses to either start their own businesses or seek jobs to help support their families.
Some of them from far-flung areas of the province said the culture of preventing girls from going to schools was fast vanishing with the realisation that education was a key to success.
“Our parents give up their opposition when they learn that their children are studying in institutions having credibility,” Mehtab Kanwal, a student, said. Kanwal, who is taking sewing and embroidery courses, said she intended to run a boutique where she would like to teach her skills to others.
“It is not only for the government to take steps for women’s empowerment. Individuals can reshape society by sharing their expertise with others.”
Nazia Asghar, a student from Harnai village, described the opportunity provided by BITE as a positive step, saying it would help women learn different skills to change their destiny.
Batool, who is from Marriabad village and learning computer skills, said she knew it would enhance prospects of success. She said she would continue her academic studies side by side and intended to do B.Com.
Samia Nazneen said she had plans to establish her own beauty parlour after completing the course, saying she would offer a free bridal make-up to poor girls.
Hundreds of boys from different parts of the province are also training in different disciplines such as auto-mechanic, carpentry, welding and home appliancesÂ’ mechanic etc.
The management plans to add more disciplines to the list, besides expanding the infrastructure to cater for the increasing number of students seeking admission.
An official told Dawn that 3,491 students were studying in 20 schools established by the army in Kohlu and Loralai areas under the Chamalang-Balochistan Education Programme (CBEP). Initially, the aim was to provide quality education to students of Marri and Luni tribes of Kohlu and Loralai, but 170 students from 17 other districts of Balochistan have also been included in the programme this year.
Efforts are also being made to raise the number of students to 10,000. The present cost of the CBEP is over Rs73 million per annum.
The trainees at the Baloch training wing, who belong to poor families, said they had decided to join army to frustrate conspiracies against Pakistan. Many of them said they would persuade their friends to join the army as well.
Thousands of youths from Balochistan have been recruited by the Pakistan Army over the past six years and the number continues to grow. In 2009 alone, 3,570 youths were enrolled and the number is likely to be much higher this year.
During a visit to Chamalang area, 70 kilometres south-east of Loralai, a team of journalists from Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar and Karachi was told that the Chamalang coal-mining project would be expanded to adjoining areas of Lunda, Noesham and Behlol.
An official said there were proven deposits of 500 metric tons worth around Rs2 trillion, adding that 1.5 million tons of coal worth around Rs6 billion had so far been excavated. He said it was the third largest revenue generating project for the Balochistan government after the Saindak and Chaghai marble mines.
The coal extraction work began in March 2007 after the army facilitated a tripartite agreement between Marris, Lunis, contractors and the Government of Balochistan in December 2006.
Over 3500 personnel are performing security-related duties around the mining area including 2005 Chamalang levies, all from Marri tribe, army, Frontier Corps, Balochistan Constabulary and Kohlu police.
The reactivation of the project has led to provision of over 7,0000 jobs to labourers.
There is also a plan to establish two coal-powered electricity generation plants of 100-150 MW each, using Chamalang coal at Gera Ghazi Khan and Rahim Yar Khan, respectively.
Locals however say that coal-based power plants should be established in Chamalang to generate 1000 to 2000 MW of electricity. Contractors say it would save a huge amount spent on the transportation of coal to Punjab being currently used in brick kilns and factories.