The “Gwadar Ko Haq Do” movement has reached a 17-day hallmark. What began as a small gathering of a few individuals has now morphed into a largescale demonstration that has engulfed much of the city and put the life of common people at a halt. Thousands of civilians from Ormara, Pasni, Buleda, Turbat and Zamuran have travelled to Gwadar to join the protests and raise their voices.
The protests have been ongoing for the past two weeks. The authorities have tried multiple times to negotiate with the protestors but to no avail. The protestors are adamant about their demands and determined not to leave the streets until they observe a palpable change.
The protest is being led by Maulana Hidayat Ur Rehman, a cleric and the General-Secretary of the Balochistan chapter of the Jamat-i-Islami. The locals follow him not because of his religious or political affiliations, but because he has addressed their problems like no one ever has. “He says vociferously and collectively what one thinks he himself needs to have dared say that, but through him, we have got a voice: Gwadar belongs to us first, and we no longer want to be ignored”, one local had told the media.
Balochistan Minister for Planning and Development Mir Zahoor Ahmed Buledi said that the government had started working on a solution as soon as Rehman had announced the protests. Buledi said that the protestors are asking for an end to the “trawler mafia”, and the government is working on it. He claimed that eight illegal trawlers have been arrested from the sea and Rehman can send his representatives to see them if he does not believe us. He said that the Balochistan government will also discuss the issue with the Sindh government.
Buledi said that the government is also considering the protestors’ demands regarding the security checkpoints that dot much of the city. He said that the government is serious about Rehman’s demands. Buledi said that the protestors need to be patient as much of the demands put forth require exhausting legislation. He said that the government needs time.
Rehma, however, is not so sure – he thinks that the government is tricking him, like how they have done in the past. In an interview with the Dawn News, Maulana Rehman said that that the people of Gwadar have been cheated. He said that the government had promised that the CPEC will revolutionize the way of the life for the ordinary folk of the city, in a positive way. “But the residents in Gwadar do not have water, electricity, education, medical treatment or employment nor are they being respected … not a single penny of CPEC was spent on Balochistan. We got dead bodies instead”, he said.
Referring to Buledi’s statement regarding the arrest of trawlers, Maulana Rehman said: “They (government) are giving us assurances again and again but they are a picture of helplessness and it was apparent that the trawler mafia is more powerful than provincial government. They are driving our marine life to extinction.”
Rehman also pointed the issue of the border closure, and the reopening of the crossing is another major demand of the “Gwadar Ko Haq Do Movement.” He said that people living near the border have families and relatives on the other side of the border and vice versa. Imposing restrictions on the free movement of people and goods is harming the people both economically and emotionally. “We get cheaper items on the border with Iran. We used to get them for 500 per cent reduced price as compared to our own products before restrictions and security checkposts.
“If we are benefiting from a [fluid] border, then it’s the government’s responsibility to legislate for that. When our Constitution can be amended overnight to benefit one person, then why can’t [lawmakers] sit for the benefit of the entire public?” he questioned.
The protestors have put forth 19 demands, which includes the withdrawal of unnecessary security forces and closure of checkpoints, ridding the sea of the “trawler mafia” and allowing the locals to freely go into the sea for fishing, reopening the border crossing with Iran and several other demands. The government has agreed to four of the demands, including putting a ban on the selling of liquor in the city and devolving the authority to mediate the border affairs to the local administration and reportedly plans to issue a notification in this regard.