Any solution to the grievances of Balochistan?

Gwadar has come into play

For last couple of weeks, scores of people including males, females and children have paraded on the roads of Gwadar, the hub city of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, chanting slogans of rights under the aegis of the Gwadar ko haq do (Give Rights to Gwadar)” movement, led by the provincial General Secretary of the Jamaat-i-Islami, Maulana Hidayat Ur Rehman. Securing the confidence of the people of Gwadar, Maulana has aimed to expend the established movement provincially. However, the long-running endeavor of Maulana was a bull’s eye of severe denunciation by local and exiled Baloch activists upon the visit of the Central ameer of Jamaat-i-Islami, Siraj ul Haq, who termed India “the biggest enemy” of Pakistan and cause of growing unrest in the region. The Maulana, on the other hand, vows to be more “the voice” of Baloch and residents of Gwadar in the movement, saying to cease supporting protesting sit-ins if they found him engaged in “party promotion”.

There are several reasons most Baloch have no good opinions of the Jamaat-i-Islam. One, the student wing of the party frequently has conflicts with Baloch students in various universities of Punjab; two, Baloch are a secular nation from ancient times and they believe more in individual and social freedom other than religious bonding; three, the Jamaat has always opposed Baloch nationalism; and the list goes on.

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While the ongoing protest in the CPEC city could reach to no conclusion for now, the spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry of China, Zhao Lijian said in his statement 6f November 30 that he did not find the protest in Gwadar “against China” and briefed there were “no Chinese trawlers” in the sea around Gwadar. Maulana Hidayat Ur Rehman supported Zhao Lijian and called it an “unsuccessful attempt” of west portraying to the world their peaceful protest for the provision of fundamental rights as an anti-CPEC protest.

He says in his defence that the China Overseas Port Holding Company (COPHC) Pakistan, which deals with the Gwadar port, was also found in stating that Maulana had cleared from the beginning of the movement in Gwadar that they were not “against the CPEC” or China. In fact, the protestors did not block Eastbay Expressway, the road being constructed by Gwadar Port Authority underCPEC.

Although Balochistan is the richest-in-resources province of Pakistan, it still lacks ‘deserved’ developments. Such movements can prove beneficial to ensure Balochistan prospers, but here one wonders if staging such a demonstration would bring fruitful reforms in the fate of the most agonised province of Balochistan, why could not it bring it previously? 

Nonetheless, the recently emerged movement, which is a ray of hope for many in Balochistan, is also a distress signal of the inner anger of the natives at deprivations of their due rights for years. Maulana, who is a leader of the true path for some, is deemed a political agent by others. But, all he is doing now is in favour of the local residents.

Protestors of Gwadar had in their list 13 demands which increased to 19 with the intensity of the sit-in. They have two leading demands; one, to halt the trawler mafia from coming within the legal boundary of the sea making it difficult for the local fishermen to carry on with their living, and two, to refurbish the trade 6n the Pakistan-Iran border which has been the source of income for several families of the district. The other demands include free movement of fishermen in the sea, removal of unnecessary checkposts in Gwadar, Makran Coastal Highway and other routes, bar on wine stores of Gwadar, establishment of a university in Gwadar, recruitment on vacant posts of non-teaching staff of education sector, check and balance on counterfeit medications, of arrears on utility bills, a special subsidy should be given by declaring Gwadar city a natural disaster area, recovery of cars and boats seized by the Coast Guard, provision of clean drinking water for all the citizens of Gwadar, prioritizing the residents of Gwadar for posts under Gwadar port and CPEC, district administration to act accordingly with victims of Tarbela dam, removal of charges against the leader of “Give Rights to Gwadar” movement, Maulana Hidayat Ur Rehman and removing of his name from the ATA Fourth Schedule list, ratification of damage to victims of hurricane and fishermen’s nets etcetera by trawlers, immediate transfer of DG GDA, Deputy Commissioner Gwadar and Assistant Commissioner Gwadar, quotas for persons with disabilities should be implemented in federal and provincial departments, and so on.

In a short span of time, the Maulana’s “Give Rights to Gwadar” movement has gained a wide audience all across the country. Residents of Makran– from various towns and villages– have joined the protest to show solidarity with the inhabitants of Gwadar, and above all, to illustrate to the authorities concern it is not merely Gwadar going through the mentioned problems, but all the region, nevertheless, the province is affected with such anguishes. Feeling the need of the people, Maulana announced to expend the movement to overall province so as to reclaim the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan.

Besides this, numerous rallies have taken place in the other parts of Balochistan and the other provinces showing solidarity with Gwadar’s movement for basic amenities. Social media sites are rendering support for Gwadar and its people. Rallies of women and children in Gwadar enhanced the worth of the movement and put forward a clear indication that the movement was supported by people of all walks of life. Local actors have been participating in and staging plays at night to portray the scenario of the city and ask the higher authorities for attention.

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In other words, the movement has become more a public movement. From local to exiled Baloch and the other provinces of the country, everyone shows moral and individual back-up and deem Maulana’s demands wholly legal and of utmost importance. Becoming the hub city of CPEC, the movement has attained more sympathy for the locals countrywide which has increased the mounting pressures on the newly established government of Mir Quddos Bezinjo.

The provincial government of Balochistan has had negotiations with Maulana Hidayat Ur Rehman to end the protest and 0eet his demands, but that could not satisfy the protesters. Led by Zahoor Ahmed Buledi, the provincial minister for planning and development, the government team asked for time for meeting some ends met, howbeit, they ensured of accomplishment of some demands. Senator Kahuda Babar Baloch claimed in a tweet that measures are taken for the complication of ends of the protest and all the “demands are almost met”. He further requested Maulana to finish the protest.

Zahoor Buledi also said in his statement that they have had “meaningful negotiations” with Maulana and his team and would bring about “positive implementation” to the soonest.

In a meeting, Chief Minister of Balochistan, Mir Abdul Quddos Bizenjo said that doors were always open for protestors for solution of the problems.

On one hand, where the Maulana has vowed to stay on the roads unless their demands are officially met in practical terms, on the other hand, the government seems to be following the protest to lead it to a conclusion in either way. The government claims the procedures have begun to accomplish the needs, but protestors complain of witnessing trawlers– one of their leading demands– yet in the sea in the Jiwani tehsil of Gwadar. It has led to distrust of the protestors in the words of the government.

Various local administrative orders have been issued on some of the demands like bar on wine stores, checking and balance on medical stores and trawlers, opening of border, removal of unnecessary checkposts and so forth. However, these could not affect the movement. But all these delude when the protestors look at a large number of military deployed to Gwadar who are threatening the protestors to end their protests, and warning them of serious consequences otherwise.

Although Balochistan is the richest-in-resources province of Pakistan, it still lacks ‘deserved’ developments. Such movements can prove beneficial to ensure Balochistan prospers, but here one wonders if staging such a demonstration would bring fruitful reforms in the fate of the most agonised province of Balochistan, why could not it bring it previously? Because we have seen such protests and demonstrations back in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012, but they merely worsened the circumstances of the province. It is yet to be seen if the ongoing “Give rights to Gwadar” movement will have a different outcome. The people of Balochistan have always looked for a way to draw their grievances to the state, and such a long-held sit-in helps them gain state attention towards the people. The coming few days can be decisive for the fate of Gwadar and Balochistan.

Ali Jan Maqsood
The writer is a freelance columnist


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