Interview with Sardar Shoukat Popalzai – President, Balochistan Economic Forum
Sardar Shoukat Popalzai, President Balochistan Economic Forum, gained his degree in International Relations with major on diplomacy, economics and anti-terrorism before spending nearly 24 years on professional career in the field of information service on International Diplomacy — Corporate Information and Media Monitoring. Over the years, he has made presentations at numerous important conferences and corporate briefings. He is also recipient of awards from the USA, Great Britain, France, the People’s Republic of China and the Federal Republic of Germany. Balochistan Economic Forum has completed 30 years of its founding.
PAGE: Millions of people have been affected by the heavy rains and floods in Balochistan. What is your assessment about it?
Sardar Shoukat Popalzai: While thousands of people across Pakistan have suffered on account of heavy rains and flooding, people in Balochistan, the country’s poorest province with minimum infrastructure and where the majority of people in villages and towns live in mud houses, have been the worst affected.
According to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), more than 36,469 houses were destroyed across Pakistan — 60 percent of them were in Balochistan. Around 800 schools were affected due to the floods, 600 in Balochistan alone.
According to the World Food Program about 1,355, people lost their lives in the floods across the country. Of every 10, three casualties were in Balochistan, the largest number in any province. Thousands of acres of crops and vegetation ready for harvest were destroyed. About 9,182,616 people are affected in Balochistan, of which 7,000 are in camps. The number of rescued people is 600.
PAGE: Could you tell us about the ‘calamity hit’ districts in Balochistan?
Sardar Shoukat Popalzai: The NDMA reports that some 33 million people have been affected by the heavy rains and floods and has officially notified 81 districts as ‘calamity hit’ and 32 in Balochistan province.
At least 10 districts — Quetta, Nasirabad, Jaffarabad, Sohbatpur, Jhal Magsi, Bolan (Kachhi) Khuzdar, Lasbela, Qila Saifullah, and Qila Abdullah were particularly hit hard by the unprecedented floods that leveled crops and destroyed thousands of houses.
PAGE: How would you comment on human casualties and infrastructure devastation?
Sardar Shoukat Popalzai: Balochistan have also the most damage to human life and infrastructure, though other parts of the country are also severely affected, between June 14 and August 31, 2022, as many as 1,106,360 houses were damaged across Pakistan and 61,718 in Balochistan. Over 33 million of the country’s approximately 220 million population has been affected by the raging floods, causing a staggering loss of $10 billion in damages to an already weakened infrastructure.
Torrential downpours and subsequent devastating flash floods have inflicted huge damage on the education infrastructure as around 3,000 schools across 26 districts of Balochistan have been destroyed or damaged as per the initial estimates.
PAGE: Agriculture sector is the worst hit. Your views:
Sardar Shoukat Popalzai: FAO reports in Balochistan 61 percent of livestock keepers in assessed districts have already reported symptoms of transboundary animal diseases. Nearly 50 percent of affected households in assessed districts of Balochistan earn their livelihoods by keeping livestock, with 36 percent reporting losing at least one livestock asset, 46 percent reporting damage to livestock shelters, and 29 percent reporting the loss of animal feedstock.
NDMA reports indicate that around 500,000 livestock have been lost due to the rains and floods in Balochistan, representing 66 percent of the nearly 755,000 livestock deaths reported nationwide. Of the total figure, around 70% or 500,000 livestock have been washed away by raging floods in the southwestern province of Balochistan, figures shared by the state-run National Disaster Management Authority said.
Agriculturists and dairy business experts fear that the killing of hundreds of thousands of animals may lead to a 30% to 40% reduction in milk and meat production in the coming months. Almost 45% of the country’s cropland has already been inundated by the floods, posing a serious threat to food security and further adding to the already skyrocketing inflation.