Gwadar protest

Published October 3, 2021

AT the start of the CPEC project, in selling its importance to citizens, our rulers stressed the associated benefits of the initiative and how it would promote investment, employment, connectivity and infrastructural development. But is this development really as all-inclusive as was promised? An ominous clue is to be found in the example of Gwadar, whose new port (part of the CPEC agreement) the state takes such pride in. On Thursday, thousands of people from all over the region gathered to protest the lack of basic facilities in their area. If what they say is to be believed — and their numbers that straddled diverse social backgrounds were compelling testimony — the local residents face severe shortages of drinking water and are given poor health and education facilities. Their situation is compounded by increasing unemployment. Moreover, they complain, these woes are acutely worsened by the active hindering by the security forces of their mobility, affecting their daily routines; the tactics employed include unwarranted questioning of their activities, and timings are imposed on the movement of, for example, fishing boats. The latter is a significant component of income for residents along the coastline. Another complaint is that the government has allowed large trawlers access to the Makran coast that the local fishermen with boats cannot match. This further impacts livelihoods.

The protest was led by Maulana Hidayat-ur-Rehman Baloch from the Jamaat-i-Islami’s Balochistan chapter. But it is noteworthy that, reportedly, nowhere were any party flags to be found. This was by all indications a coming together of an absolutely hapless people against the couldn’t-care-less attitude of their own state. And the administration was, of course, resounding in its silence. The negligence of the state towards the residents of Balochistan has long been a source of friction. It is imperative that it invest heavily and urgently in ensuring food and water, schools and hospitals, roads, employment-generating activities, and all other associated resources that allow people to live dignified lives in satisfactory surroundings.

Published in Dawn, October 3rd, 2021

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