A former senior bureaucrat, and a renowned economist, Mr Muhammad Khan Achakzai is the 22nd and incumbent Governor of the Balochistan province. He hails from one of the most prominent Pashtoon political families of the province. His father Khan Abdul Samad Khan Achakzai was a revered personality and his younger brother, Mehmood Khan Achakzai, is one of the most respected politicians in Pakistan.
Mr Achakzai earned his Master’s degree in Public Administration from Howard Kennedy School, USA, and did MSc in Economics from University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland.
Mr Mohammad Khan Azhakzai has served as an assistant professor at the Balochistan University’s economics department. He later joined the Planning Commission of Pakistan and retired as chief economist.
Jahangir’s World Times (JWT): You are the governor of a province that is Pakistan’s largest in terms of area, but is the least developed. What is your vision for its development?
Governor Balochistan (GB): Basically, every government is bound to provide the masses with peace and better living conditions as well as opportunities to prosper. This phenomenon can be further divided into a number of sectors like education, health, etc. The incumbent Balochistan government is the first in provinces history that mainly comprises local political parties. Given the ever-precarious law and order situation in the province, they are taking the maintenance of peace as their top priority. They are also striving to improve the provision of health, education and drinking water facilities.
In fact, the present school system in Balochistan was given by the British colonials. Moreover, at the time of partition, Balochistan had only one inter college whereas Punjab has institutions like GCU, FC University; University of the Punjab etc., which are more than hundred years old. Nowadays, everyone talks about the higher education but my own concern is ‘Primary Education’ because we cannot progress until we improve our primary education.
GB: First of all, it is incorrect to say that the Balochistan University is facing a financial crisis. All you can say is the HEC grant to the university is scant. Actually, the university has to enhance its finances and this can be done by introducing new courses. Evening classes can also be helpful in this regard. The government has allocated at least five hundred millions for the University of Balochistan.
JWT: Have you issued some special directives to promote ‘research’ culture at the university level?
GB: Let me make it very clear that nobody should be directing universities; they should be free from any influence and they must be independent in all sorts of decision making.
Now as regards the research culture, it is an undeniable fact that universities in Pakistan are not producing anything new. It is so because for research, a critical as well as free mind is required. But the minds of our teachers and students are not so inquisitive. We blindly follow everything said by our elders; we don’t dare to ask the very crucial ‘Why?’ So as long as you don’t raise questions, you can’t do research, cannot come to something new or creative. Newton saw an apple falling from a tree, the ‘why’ question made him search for the answer. Hence, we had the laws of the gravity. The Harvard and the Cambridge are far ahead of us because they have critical minds. Therefore, we have to change our mindset in order to have good research from our universities and institutes.
JWT: The present Balochistan government allocated more than 24% of its budget to the education sector and announced to establish new universities and medical colleges in different part of the province. Had it not been better to improve the standards of existing universities and colleges instead of making new ones?
GB: You know, Balochistan is almost half of the country in terms of area. If we have only a few colleges, then nobody will be willing to come here. It is also a fact that the terrain of the province and its weather conditions are not only different from other parts of Pakistan but are also unique in the region. Balochistan produces a number of fruit varieties while Punjab and Sindh have only two i.e. oranges and mangos. This distinction calls for developing our agriculture sector and promoting research in this field. We have the Mirani Dam that has the canal irrigation facility but nobody knows what to do with its water. Therefore, we have to establish new colleges and universities in order to utilize the potential of youth of Balochistan to the maximum. This will also curtail unemployment in the province.
JWT: All Balochistan governments in the past had grievances with the federal government. Being the representative of the Federation here, what steps have you taken to address these concerns?
GB: As you know the 18th amendment curtailed provincial governors’ powers. This was, indeed, a good step. If I were vested with same powers as my predecessors were, then I would have been very unpopular; every government would have reservations owing to governor’s powers to dissolve the provincial assembly. As you said, I am a representative of the federation here in Balochistan, so my doors are open to all, and at every time. If I feel any discrepancy or flaw in government’s policies, I advise them to come over it. I hope the provincial government would do everything possible for the betterment of Balochistan and its citizens.
JWT: You had served in the Planning Commission of Pakistan. What steps would you suggest for improvement of the public policy making in Pakistan?
GB: Good and very important question! Actually, the British rulers introduced us with the modern-day government, state institutions, etc. So, our public policies are made after Lord Macaulay’s model. But, it is so unfortunate that we could not introduce reformative amendments in this model to meet the challenges our future generations may face.
For any sort of policymaking, first we have to analyze the prevailing situation realistically. For instance, to raise per capita income to US$ 4200 in eleven years, a growth rate of 9% is required; but we could not achieve even 6%. Our public policy making needs to be ameliorated and improved because failure cannot be an option.
JWT: Why bureaucracy is always blamed for all the ailments of Pakistan?
GB: Well, it’s not altogether a wrong perception. Actually, government is not politicians only because they have to get elected from public for a specific term i.e. five years. If they are lucky enough, they come at the helm. But, the government policies are always implemented by the bureaucrats who are to stay in their offices for a longer time. As I said earlier, Macaulay’s model has not been followed in letter and spirit. Unfortunately, our bureaucracy is responsible for it. Nobody can force a bureaucrat to do wrong if he does not want to do.
JWT: Do you think that bureaucracy in Balochistan is responsible for the loopholes in policymaking as well as implementation in the province?
GB: Yes, not only in Balochistan but everywhere in Pakistan. Why this is happening? The basic reason is that our educational and training institutes do not focus character-building. Always remember that reward of the public service is not money. Our officers have learned to do many things but they have forgotten to put in their souls for this noble cause of public service. The only way to come out of this quagmire is that we have to emphasize on character building of our bureaucracy and hold it accountable for all of its deeds. However, Balochistan could not develop a strong public service system comprising talented and vigilant officers because we had lost more than three decades in fighting against Russian invasion, jehadis, terrorism, etc.
JWT: Would you like to give any message for the youth of Balochistan?
GB: My message to our youth is that they have a bright future. So, they should not give up come what may. They are the best of the country.