Regional disparity and lopsided development have plagued Pakistan for the last seven decades. We lost the Bengalis because we refused to accord them equal privileges. We have lost the Baluch because of similar reasons.
The same is true for our large provinces. Unlike other countries who break up larger provinces into smaller ones to ease development we have retained all our original provinces. This has, unfortunately, led to lopsided development within them.
The latest UNDP report “South Punjab Regional SDGs Indicators Comparison with Centre and North” shows how decades of lopsided and uneven development have hurt even Punjab. “The impoverished southern districts of Punjab are lagging far behind the rest of the province, both in social and economic indicators. The data produced by numerous government and independent research studies and surveys over the last two decades shows that the majority of the districts of southern Punjab are among the most underdeveloped and deprived in the province in terms of basic public services such as health, education, safe drinking water supply, sanitation etc. because of years of underinvestment by successive governments.”
Further, “The government’s development spending data shows that the social and economic lag in the underdeveloped southern region of Punjab has exacerbated over the years — even with an increase in provincial financial resources — as the bulk of public development funds are spent on large infrastructure projects in the more affluent central or northern regions of the province.”
As an editorial in Dawn notes, “the government has to do much more for bringing this disadvantaged region up to the developmental level of the rest of the province. The rulers should know that recognition of the existing disparities alone will not tackle the growing socioeconomic and political tensions in south Punjab. But reductions in regional disparities on a fast-track basis may achieve the goal.”
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