The protests organised by, civil rights activists, political parties, fishermen and concerned citizens have been going on for nine days at Y Chowk on Port Road in Gwadar.
Head of the ‘Give rights to Gwadar’ rally Maulana Hidayat ur Rehman said the protests would continue until their demands are met.
The protesters have demanded removal of unnecessary security posts, providing drinking water and electricity, removal of large mechanical fishing boats from Makran coast and opening of Iran border from Panjgur to Gwadar.
The protests are part of growing discontent with China’s presence in Gwadar, whose port is an integral part of the $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project (CPEC), the flagship project of China’s multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
According to reports, talks between the government delegation and the protesters failed on Tuesday. A delegation sent by the Chief Minister of Balochistan returned empty-handed as the protesters refused to end their protest.
Provincial Finance Minister Zahoor Buledi, Ehsan Shah and Lala Rashid, members of the negotiation committee, listened to the demands of Maulana Hidayat-ur-Rehman Baloch and said that all the demands are legitimate. The committee members said they will try their best to resolve the issues.
On this occasion, Maulana Hidayat-ur-Rehman Baloch said that this CPEC and so-called development has given us nothing but disgrace, abuse and hunger. “Trawling at sea has intensified and the Coast Guard’s aggression has increased,” he added.
He said that a few days ago, the officials of the Pakistan Coast Guard arrested a poor rickshaw driver and seized his rickshaw and his rations. He further said that Frontier Corps (FC) and Coast Guards are enemies of the people. “Security force officials stationed at the border are engaged in extortion,” Maulana claimed.
China’s presence in Balochistan has often triggered social unrest and gave rise to anti-Chinese sentiment. It has also given a fillip to Baloch insurgent groups, who have carried out attacks in protest at CPEC projects.
In August this year, a suicide bomber attacked a motorcade carrying Chinese personnel on the Gwadar East Bay Expressway project in which at leat 4 Chinese were killed.
In October last year, gunmen killed at least 14 people near Ormara on the coastal highway after ambushing a convoy of vehicles travelling from Gwadar to Karachi and in 2019 several people, including Pakistani Navy soldiers were killed in an attack on the luxury Pearl Continental hotel in Gwadar.
The multi-billion infrastructure project connects China’s Xinjiang province with Balochistan’s Gwadar port. Gwadar port has long been portrayed as the jewel in the CPEC crown, but in the process, the city has become the very embodiment of a security state.
The authorities’ priorities are geared towards securing the port and its ancillary interests; the welfare of those for whom the area is home counts for little. Far from the port being a harbinger of an economic boom, the opposite has happened, The Dawn newspaper reported.
Existing privations have deepened, people’s mobility is restricted by security forces and there is unwarranted questioning of their activities. Many say they are made to feel like strangers in their own land, it said.