The development of KP lies in gaining maximum benefit from the potential in three areas, i.e., minerals and mining (including hydrocarbons), tourism and trade. These three things can not only unearth the security and development in KP, but also provide a financial solution for the ailing economy of Pakistan in times to come.
A month after the suicide blast in Police Lines Mosque in Peshawar, there is a growing sense of despair and anguish among the people of Pakistan, especially Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). There is a visible surge in the number of terrorism related activities after Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) denounced ceasefire around four months back. With the ingress of social media in every household, presence of vast amount of misinformation online and the political unrest in country, it is only logical that this sense of hopelessness prevails. However, there are countless reasons why we should not lose hope.
Having served in KP since 2009 as a Brigade Commander, then as a Division Commander, currently serving as the Corps Commander and dealing with Western Border since then, I have seen the security and development in KP over these years very closely. Having seen character of war and security policies change for KP, especially erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) over the years, we can gladly proclaim that we have come a long way. Army will keep doing its job for the security and development of KP and we will prevail (Allah willing), but there is a need to understand that the security mosaic of KP is more complex and there are other facets to it apart from military operations. It is linked to the socioeconomic development of KP with a focus on Newly Merged Districts (NDMs), lets call them Districts.
Barry Gordon Buzan, a British political scientist, presented a concept of security which extends beyond military security. He claims that the concept of security encompasses other dimensions such as economic, political, societal and environmental security. It involves not only the protection of territorial integrity of a state, but sustaining and enhancing the wellbeing of the people coming within its jurisdiction. Robert McNamara, former U.S. Secretary of Defense said that “development means security and without security, there is no development”.
Pakistan has the world’s second largest salt mines, fifth largest copper and gold reserves and second largest coal deposits, as well as estimated billions of barrels of crude oil. Despite having this huge potential, the contribution of mineral sector to Pakistan’s GDP is around 3% and the country’s exports are only about 0.1% of the world’s total.
It is not a precedence for Army officers to write, but in my opinion, why not! Compared to the past, today we stand at crossroads of KP’s future. This may be interrelated to security, but no one will be allowed to take over a district, a case in point is TTP’s reemergence in Swat. At the policy level, we must think beyond traditional security to find solutions.
The development of KP lies in gaining maximum benefit from the potential in three areas, i.e., minerals and mining (including hydrocarbons), tourism and trade. These three things can not only unearth the security and development in KP, but also provide a financial solution for the ailing economy of Pakistan in times to come. A gist of these aspects to development and security in KP is covered in this article and each will be covered in detail subsequently in a few articles:
The mineral potential of KP, especially NMDs, if tapped properly, can address its own and Pakistan’s financial woes.
Minerals and Mining
Pakistan has the world’s second largest salt mines, fifth largest copper and gold reserves and second largest coal deposits, as well as estimated billions of barrels of crude oil. Despite having this huge potential, the contribution of mineral sector to Pakistan’s GDP is around 3% and the country’s exports are only about 0.1% of the world’s total. In the year 2017, Pakistan’s total mineral exports were USD 0.5 billion as compared to the world’s USD 401 billion. KP has on its inventory several varieties of gems, metallic minerals, rare-earth minerals, marble/dimension stone (50 types) and industrial minerals. The spread is almost all over KP’s landmass, especially in the northern areas and NMDs.
The total mineral worth of KP is estimated to be around Rs 200 trillion. Dimension stone reserves are estimated to be around three billion tons, amounting to approximately 78% of the total estimated national reserves, whereas gems, metallic minerals, and industrial minerals are estimated to be around ten billion tons in NMDs alone, amounting to 20% of the estimated national reserves.
KP’s mineral development policies and regulations, put in place in year 2017, have started to pay dividends and the present production of minerals in KP is around 40.2 million tons per year. The revenue has increased from approximately Rs. 2.1 billion in the year 2018-19 to Rs. 8.2 billion in the year 2021-22 with 61% increase in a short period of 3 years. However, in the complete province, a very few Joint Ventures (JVs) have been undertaken–including Frontier Works Organization (FWO)’s signature Muhammad Khel Copper Mining Project in Boya, North Waziristan District. As per mining experts, this area can be developed into a “copper city”. Mining value chain explains that mining duration from small scale to large scale can be anything from 3 to 9 years. Hence in times to come, small-scale mining activities will form the major share of mining.
In KP, a huge amount of minerals are extracted in raw form and exported as such. The province has at present no ability to carry out value addition or produce a finished product. It is unfortunate that up till now, even after 75 years of independence, no worthwhile mineral-based industry could be established in the country except marble and ceramic. Not a single reputable gold or jewelry-related manufacturing/refinery setup exists in Pakistan. The mineral potential of KP, especially NMDs, if tapped properly, can address its own and Pakistan’s financial woes.
Potential of Hydrocarbons
The overall requirement for oil in Pakistan is approximately 450,000 barrels per day (BPD). KP has been blessed with a large amount of oil and gas reserves that, if utilized effectively, can provide much relief to the oil and gas imports of our country. Oil and gas production is currently taking place on a very limited scale and there are 42 producing wells in Naspa, Tal, Chanda and Mela oil blocks in Kohat, Hangu and Karak Districts. The current production of Pakistan is 88,262 BPD, whereas the share of KP alone is 35,000 BPD (40% share of total production). It has provided jobs to around 20,000 employees directly or indirectly.
It is expected that 500 million barrels oil and 9 trillion cubic feet gas in total can be produced from KP, which is almost six times the potential of Sui (total potential of Sui is 1.6 trillion cubic feet).
Oil exploration is currently paying dividends in Miranshah, Bannu West, Wali, Shewa, Lakki Marwat and some blocks in Orakzai and Tirah, along with high impact oil and gas discoveries expected in KP (80% of which lie in NMDs and the adjoining belt). It is expected that 500 million barrels oil and 9 trillion cubic feet gas in total can be produced from KP which is almost six times the potential of Sui (total potential of Sui is 1.6 trillion cubic feet).
There is no denying the fact that Pakistan is a beautiful country with countless prospects for tourism. KP is a beautiful land with beautiful people and the world needs to see it. KP has a diverse geo-ecological formation, ranging from Dera Ismail Khan at 250 m above mean sea level in the South to 7,708 m high Tirich Mir in the Chitral District. Around 20.25% of the province is forested with trees of varying density. Alpine pasture constitutes almost one third (28.98%) of the forest ecosystem, and almost the same quantum of land (30.08%) is under agriculture. Another 10.67% constitutes the rangelands.
Apart from Galiyat and Chitral, there is no dearth of scenic landscapes in Swat, Orakzai, Kurram, Tirah, Dir and Bajaur.
In the recent years, largely due to increased security and improved accessibility, the tourism sector in KP has experienced substantial growth, with around 1.2 million domestic tourists and thousands of international tourists visiting the area annually, generating over USD 120 million in direct revenue. The tourist influx in KP for the year 2021-22 was approximately 52 million and on Eid-ul-Fitr last year alone, tourists spent around 56 billion Rupees. KP can become the hub of national and international tourism and the required steps are also in place towards the right direction, which includes the establishment of the state-of-the-art Integrated Tourism Zones (ITZs) being planned in Ganool in Mansehra District and Gabbin Jabba and Mankiyal in Swat District. KP Tourism Authority believes that these ITZs will add USD 10 billion to the national economy. In the future, ITZs are also planned in Kurram and Orakzai.
More on tourism will be covered later, but enchanted forests of Dir and Rajgal in Khyber, Nanavar Caves, Samana Fort and Sama in Orakzai, lofty mountains and meadows of Kurram, Deep Canyons of Bannu, scenic views and water sports at Gomal Zam Dam, picturesque spots along the snow-covered mountains in Razmak and Shawal are a few places, unknown to even the locals, that are some of the potential tourist destinations in KP.
Historically, KP has been an important hub for trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan and beyond. It provides Central Asian Republics one of the closest routes to sea; however, much of the trade was based on illegal trade and smuggling, paying no dividends to the national exchequer. With the regularization and proper functioning of the border terminals, there is an increase in trade to and from KP. Furthermore, with significant improvements in infrastructure due to investments made through China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the investment climate in KP is extremely promising. The industrial cooperation under CPEC provides KP a great opportunity to jump-start the industrialization process. Rashakai Special Economic Zone (SEZ) is the only SEZ in CPEC’s portfolio that is being done in Build-Operate-Transfer mode with Chinese state-owned initiative and is likely to bring more JVs in the coming future.
KP has a diverse geo-ecological formation, ranging from Dera Ismail Khan at 250 m above mean sea level in the South to 7,708 m high Tirich Mir in the Chitral District.
In 2019-20, the total volume of imports was worth USD 339 million and exports valued at USD 607 million. In 2021-22, imports have increased to USD 600 million and exports were worth USD 589 million. Major exports include rice, cement, fruits and vegetables whereas imports comprise mainly coal, fresh and dry fruits. On average, 1800 cargo trucks and 6750 pedestrians move through the four main border terminals in KP (Torkham, Angoor Adda, Ghulam Khan and Kharlachi). As and when capacity is built, we should not shy away from opening more routes.
I would be covering trade aspects in subsequent writing; however, it should be pointed out that trade in KP is not restricted to roads, but also linkages of rail and pipelines to Central Asia and beyond.
Hydel Power Generation
Almost half of the hydel power potential of our country lies in KP. Currently, the national requirement for electricity is around 25,000 MW, whereas KP is producing 10,858 MW electricity through 59 operating dams which include Tarbela, Warsak and Kurram Tangi Dam. There are 15 under construction dams that will generate a little over 7,500 MW electricity and there are another 22 dams in the pipeline that have the potential to produce 11,100 MW electricity. Mohmand Dam is under construction and will provide 800 MW of electricity by 2026. Total hydel potential of KP is around 30,000 MW which is almost half of the total hydel power potential of Pakistan.
Notwithstanding the importance of bigger dams, an opportunity exists for constructing small dams and hydropower projects that can fulfill the requirement of local population apart from creating job opportunities.
This article will cover an embryonic concept, which aims to provide an advantage to the people of our Newly Merged Districts amid the challenges that affect the development and security of KP. Albeit due the fiscal constraints presented by the current state of our economy, governance issues coupled with the present political scenario, the answer to the voices of the local people lies in the development in these sectors through JVs and Public-Private Partnerships (PPP). This will not only provide access to locals in NMDs, but also create their stakes and onus.
Time is very short and critical and we need to take immediate steps at the policy level to build on the potential of KP. The security of KP is not all about guns and we must actualize this concept in the form of doable concrete actions where development overtakes security. This will be covered in more detail in the subsequent write-ups.
(To be continued…)
The author has a vast experience of serving in erstwhile FATA during the War on Terror. He commanded a Brigade in South Waziristan, a Division in North Waziristan and is Commanding Peshawar Corps at the moment. He has also been Pakistan's Defence Attaché to China.
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