GWADAR: Commander Shahid Ahmed, the commanding officer of PNS Akram, said here on Tuesday that without maritime security of the Gwadar port and its approaches, dividends of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) could not be accrued.
PNS Akram, set up in 1983 at Gwadar, is a surveillance station, considered the eyes and ears of Pakistan Navy, from where they don’t just monitor activities at the Gwadar port, but also in the North Arabian Sea.
As the commanding officer pointed out at a press briefing, Gwadar port has enormous strategic importance for Pakistan as it is the focal point of the CPEC.
For the protection of Gwadar, there is also PNS Siddiq in Turbat, which is the primary airbase for fixed wing aircraft. The unit also provides facility to anchor to foreign naval units.
Surveillance station monitors activities at the port and in the sea
There is also PNS Makran at Pasni, which is the secondary airbase for naval aviation and is used for both rotary wing and fixed wing aircraft. The naval base at Jiwani is another surveillance station coordinating with the maritime headquarters in Karachi. The 3rd and 4th battalions have been raised to protect the Gwadar port and provide harbour defence.
Commander Ahmed said that the navy had been entrusted with the security of the Gwadar port, including the fish harbour, the entire hammerhead-shaped peninsula, including Koh-i-Batil, and the Chinese nationals residing in Gwadar. To safeguard the Gwadar port, the navy has also raised the maritime security Task Force-88 on Dec 13, 2016.
“The area of responsibility of Task Force-88 starts from Gwadar Bay to Basol, extending seaward up to six nautical miles from the baseline of Pakistan. This includes the approaches to Gwadar port as well,” he shared.
“The area includes a number of bays, including Gwadar Bay, Gwadar West Bay, East Bay and Pasni Bay,” Commander Ahmed said. Astola Island in the south of Pasni and a number of water indentations also come in the area of responsibility of Task Force-88.
“The major fish harbours in our area of responsibility are at Gwadar, Jiwani, Pishukan, Surbander, Kabbar Jhal and Pasni but other than these, about 29 more fishing areas from where fishing originates also fall in our area of responsibility,” he said.
Fishing is carried out on fishing boats. Group fishing is also conducted in Gwadar, Jiwani and Pasni.
“Over 700 registered and 1,200 unregistered fishing boats operate in our area. The unregistered boats might be used for smuggling and illegal trafficking. The possibility of terrorists using such boats cannot be ruled out,” he said, adding that registration of the boats was not the job of the navy or the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA). The Balochistan fisheries department is responsible for it.
A rare defence mechanism is being followed for the security of the Gwadar port. “Surveillance is maintained through sectors and radars at PNS Akram through which we coordinate with the entire area on land and the sea. For vigilance, we have patrolling boats. The PN ships and helicopters are also operating and we are doing all this in close coordination with the PMSA,” Commander Ahmed concluded.
Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2017