Five months ago in the midst of Corona on its peak, I embarked with my team on a road trip from Lahore to South Balochistan, Turbat to be exact and FC South Head Quarters to be precise. To meet a man who shared my passion to teach new skills to the underprivileged of the remotest areas of Balochistan. Major General Sarfraz, IGFC South Balochistan.
A 27 hour road trip because there were no flights but that was not going to stop us to reach Turbat.
Going through the beautiful and lonely valleys of Balochistan and sky high mountains and barren deserts the only thing going through my mind was, how can we teach the most modern and advanced skills of the future to the youth of Balochistan, today. It was a ginormous task looking us into our faces and perhaps trying to challenge us or maybe IBLEES was trying to discourage us. And one thing i have learned throughout my life experiences is that IF IBLEES is trying to discourage you then you must be on the right path. To me it is always an indication of you being on the right path.
The closer I got to Turbat the more determined I became. Without knowing how we would launch such a huge project in such a remote area. I had never even been to Turbat before. All i had heard like most Pakistanis do because of our negative media was that there are just bombs blasting every 5 seconds in Balochistan. On the contrary, all I saw was the beauty of Balochistan every 5 miles.
Breathtakingly gorgeous coastlines, mountains, deserts, hospitable people and a network of highways.
We reached Turbat at night and the next morning, IGFC was welcoming us with a smile on his face. An officer with the utmost professionalism, Major General Sarfraz Ali. As DG Military Intelligence or as Commandant Staff College Quetta or as the Defence Attache in Washington D.C., I have always found him to be a man of decisions. You make sense to him, you reason with him and IF the reasoning results in making Pakistan better, the General will take quick decisions. And I was expecting nothing less this time.
The next 7 days of meetings, presentations, discussions with a conference room full of his officers, my team and I sat there answering every little inquiry or a question. His entire team was nothing but professionals. It was such a refreshing experience to see officers in uniform wanting to equip the youth of Balochistan with the most advanced skills for them to gain employment or earn through freelancing opportunities.
Freelancing is a $2.4 trillion dollar industry and growing. 20% of the worlds’ youth is earning through freelancing. But you need skills, digital skills, to sell them online to the world. Hundreds of new skills are there. Freelancing defies the myth that only digital skills could be marketed.
Skills like medical transcription to creative writing to paralegal services to project management or taxation consultation, all are up for grabs.
Fast forward from all the doubts of IBLEES from the first trip to Turbat, fast forward from all the negativities my team and i heard from everyone that this is an impossible task where even the previous governments have failed with all the state apparatus, fast forward all that, five months of hard work and absolute belief in Allah SWT and an undying love for Pakistan, my team has delivered. Few days from today on October 1st 2020, we are launching the biggest ever Skill Development Initiative in the history of Balochistan. 4000 students from the remotest areas of Southern Balochistan will be taught 14 different advanced skills through an online/offline in class hybrid model. In addition a Harvard university Alumnus will teach Trubat Law college students Contract Law and Legal Drafting Law.
Take a second and try to absorb that.
A Harvard trained professor transferring knowledge to Turbat law college students. Something Balochistan has never seen or thought of before.
IGFC and his entire team at the HQ and his Commanders have left no stone unturned to make this moment a reality. The spirit to learn in Baloch students has nothing but astonished me. We haven’t even launched our Pilot Project of 4000 students yet and tens of thousands of students through their college principals or VCs have approached us to continue this program for years to come.
Poor students, middle class students, students from the remotest of areas, all under one roof with a single goal in mind-learn new skills to earn a living.
The only way out for Baloch people from their current conditions is to equip them with the most advanced skills. Skills that can be sold overseas through freelancing. With a shortage of jobs and infrastructure, even if we equip 500,000 baloch students in the next 5 years with Hi Tech and other sellable digital skills, Pakistan can earn $2 billion a year. Just $300 dollars a month in earnings per student, a very realistic goal based on any freelancing historical figures, can lead us there. Every goal in the beginning seems impossible, so did this FC South Skill Development Initiative, and I am sure to many the $2 billion a year in foreign currency earnings looks impossible as well, but all impossibilities with hard work, dedication and positivity can lead to possibilities.
A better Balochistan is a better Pakistan. There are no two ways about it. Let us move together. Let us forge ahead. Let us fight ignorance with knowledge and poverty with skills.
This is a very doable goal. A goal that can be accomplished in the next 5 years. And 2025 is not that far away.
May Allah give Pakistan sincere leaders at the micro level as well. Where small contributions towards the people of Pakistan can lead to big changes in our collective future. AMEEN.