Balochistan police have issued orders to send 5,500 police officers to Gwadar from various other districts for maintenance of law and order and on anti-riot duties amid a weeks-long protest, it emerged on Thursday.
According to a notification issued by Balochistan's Central Police Office, the additional police force being sent comprises deputy superintendents of police (DSPs) and station house officers (SHOs) in addition to lower-cadre personnel.
The notification said Gwadar's senior superintendent of police (SSP) would be the overall commander of the force while the most senior DSP would be the overall commander for the concerned district police. The sub-divisional police officers would be in charge of their concerned sub-divisional force, whereas the SHOs would command their respective police station personnel.
"Except ASP (assistant superintendent of police)/DSP and SHOs, no one shall carry weapon[s]. Two gunmen with each ASP/DSP and each SHO shall accompany the police personnel and ensure their security and safety," the notification said.
The development comes amid ongoing protests in Gwadar for the last 18 days by thousands of residents, who demand access to clean drinking water and an end to "trawler mafia", among other things.
Protestors from Gwadar, Turbat, Pishkan, Zamran, Buleda, Ormara and Pasni are taking part in the Gwadar Ko Huqooq Do Tehreek (Give Rights to Gwadar Movement) led by Maulana Hidayatur Rehman, a local leader of the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI). They have vowed to continue their protest till their demands are met.
The JI leader told Dawn.com that protesters have blocked the Makran Coastal Highway from four different locations on Thursday, further extending the protest. A shutter down strike was also observed in Gwadar today, with shops and markets closed across the city. Fishermen across the district also protested by not turning to the sea.
He added that on the call of trade unions, a shutter down strike is also being observed in Ormara and Pasni.
Rehman said the movement would continue till the protesters' demands were not met. Regarding the government requesting more time for the demands to be met, he said that 70 years had already been provided and that there was no option now other than the implementation of the demands as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, Balochistan Minister for Planning and Development Mir Zahoor Ahmed Buledi said "meaningful talks" were held with Rehman and his team, and "a joint strategy was discussed after some progress on [the implementation of] their demands".
"Hopefully there will soon be a positive result to the Gwadar protest that will be in the favour of the people and Balochistan," he tweeted.
According to a document available with Dawn.com, the protesters have put forth 19 demands, which include steps to rid the sea of the "trawler mafia" and allowing fishermen to freely go into the waters.
Editorial: Protests in Gwadar
The protesters have also called for getting rid of unnecessary check posts and to not "insult" citizens in the name of security. They also demanded that all wine stores in Gwadar be shut down, and to allow border with Iran.
The demands also state that a majority of the people employed by the China Overseas Port Holding Company were from outside of Gwadar and called for giving priority to locals.
Official sources had earlier told Dawn the provincial government accepted four demands of the protesters and authorities concerned had issued an official notification in this regard.
One of the key demands accepted by the provincial government was taking over powers of running the Pak-Iran border affairs from the Frontier Corps authorities and handing it over to the district administration.
It was decided that the Maritime Security Agency, the district administration and the fisheries department will conduct joint patrolling in Balochistan waters against illegal fishing of trawlers and drive foreign mafia trawlers out of waters of Gwadar district to protect the rights of fishermen of Gwadar and other areas of Balochistan.
Last week, the Excise, Taxation and Anti-Narcotics Department had ordered the closure of all wine stores in Gwadar district with immediate effect in view of the "law and order situation".