HDT chief’s detention

Published March 28, 2023

RATHER than lending a sympathetic ear to the people of Balochistan, the state’s response more often than not is to yield a big stick. This has certainly been the response to the Haq Do Tehreek’s protests in Gwadar and other parts of Makran. The HDT’s leader, Maulana Hidayatur Rehman, has been in jail since mid-January, after a policeman died when supporters of his movement and law enforcers clashed. While protests had largely declined since the maulana’s arrest, the people of Gwadar are now back on the streets. A recent demonstration saw Gwadar’s women demanding basic facilities for their area, and lamenting the fact that Maulana Hidayat had been locked up for raising the area’s issues. Recently, the leadership of Jamaat-i-Islami, to which the maulana belongs, also warned the state to release the HDT leader. Hidayatur Rehman has been denied bail by the Balochistan High Court. Interestingly, as the protesters point out, provincial minister Abdul Rehman Khetran, who has been accused of involvement in a triple-murder case, was recently granted bail.

The fact is that the HDT chief had tapped a raw nerve, becoming the voice of Makran’s people, who have hardly gained from the lofty promises the state made to transform Balochistan through Gwadar. The establishment uses terms like ‘game changer’ when mentioning Gwadar, yet the locals continue to have problems securing basic facilities such as water, while Makran’s fisherfolk have been unable to make a decent living due to the presence of illegal trawlers. Unfortunately, the state has failed to fulfil the pledges it made to the people, particularly HDT supporters. Instead, according to reports, powerful figures in uniform have vowed to crack down on those who stage protests in Balochistan. Perhaps it is time the prime minister intervened to ensure Maulana Hidayat is granted bail and allowed to defend himself in court, and that the state delivers on the promises made to the people of Makran.

Published in Dawn, March 28th, 2023

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