QUETTA / GWADAR: As the Balochistan government struck with an iron fist at protesters in Gwadar and imposed an emergency law that prohibits the gathering of five or more people, the demonstrators and their leaders continued to pour into the streets — and get arrested — and more joined in from other towns on Thursday.

The police have rounded up some 100 protesters in the last four days after tensions erupted in the district after months of peaceful protests for basic rights. On Thursday, the provincial government imposed Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code in Gwadar for one month.

The provincial home minister, Ziaullah Langove, has said that the government would not compromise on the writ of the state and would strictly deal with the elements behind “violent protests” and those “using women as human shields to gain sympathies”.

Maulana Hidayatur Rehman, who is leading the protests, said people were simply asking for their basic rights like water, electricity and jobs, and not a motorway or Orange Line.

Hundreds still on streets as govt imposes Section 144 banning gatherings of five or more people for a month

A statement issued by the Balochistan home department said that under Section 144, “there will be a ban on all kinds of rallies, protests, sit-ins and gatherings of five or more people in the port city of Gwadar”. Displaying arms has also been banned.

However, workers and supporters of the Maulana Rehman-led Haq Do Tehreek (HDT) continued their protest on Thursday in Gwadar, demanding the release of all people and activists of the movement.

All bazaars, banks, shops and business centres remained closed throughout the day amid protest marches on various roads of the port town. Other areas of the coastal district also continued to witness a shutter-down strike for the fourth day.

The protesters and the police clashed in several areas of Gwadar, and people who had been dispersed a day earlier again gathered and blocked the main highway linking the port city with other districts of the Makran division.

The port city remained cut off from Karachi and other areas and all incoming and outgoing traffic was suspended, and so were the internet and other communication services.

Some tourists have been stranded in hotels, as the road leading to the Pearl-Continental hotel was blocked by the protesters.

Reports coming from different sources suggested that people in Pasni, Ormara, Jiwani and Turbat also protested in support of the HDT protesters.

In Turbat, people gathered in front of the Turbat Press Club and tried to take out a rally, but a heavy contingent of police stopped them from coming onto the roads.

Sources said that more people were also arrested in Gwadar and Pasni towns. Over 100 have been arrested during the last four days.

Meanwhile, speaking at a press conference after a high-level meeting on the Gwadar issue on Thursday, Home Minister Langove said the provincial government had decided not to compromise on the writ of the state and security of the Chinese working in Gwadar.

He said the administration would deal with the elements who were continuing their violent protests despite “the government accepting all of their demands” and those “using women as human shields to gain sympathies”. He said people involved in violence during protests and those who attacked government buildings would face legal action.

Published in Dawn, December 30th, 2022

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