Gwadar Suffers despite CPEC

Local inhabitants must be brought on board 

Despite several explosive attacks on Chinese, Pakistan still hopes for strengthening its relationship with China for the strategic economic development.

Pakistan’s future economy hinges on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which has attracted attention all over the world. However, Pakistan and China signed the $46 billion CPEC project related to economy and industrialization in April 2016 and aimed that the game-changing project bring unprecedented economic growth and prosperity for both countries.

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However, the official message of Mian Shahbaz SharIf, PM of Pakistan states, “Pakistan-China friendship is deep-rooted and eternal. This friendship is rooted in the hearts of people of the two countries. The all-weather close relationship has stood the test of time. We are hugely grateful to H.E. President Xi Jinping and H.E. Prime Minister Li Keqiang for their continued support to Pakistan. We will implement China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) with ‘Pakistan speed’ and take it forward to new heights.”

The PM believes that the associated projects bring regional peace, security, prosperity and economic development in entire country.

Balochistan, the home of CPEC flagship project, seems left out greatly and it continues to suffer despite CPEC. Balochistan is Pakistan’s most undeveloped and ignored province which lags behind in more ways than one. However, the heart of the mega project, Gwadar, suffers from major challenging issues which include severe shortage of water, electricity, illegal fishing, poverty, insecurity, among others.

Prosperity must have begun from where the CPEC projects are initiated, not from outside, because it is the local residents’ basic right to get the benefits from ongoing projects. CPEC may remain an unsuccessful project if the people of Balochistan including Gwadar become neglected from their fundamental rights and livelihood.

Actually, Gwadar’s residents never considered the project a success since project has not given benefits to local residents and their expectations have never been met. The residents held multiple peaceful and conflicting protests, chanting slogans and demanding their basic facilities, claiming that their demands have never been paid heed attentions by the provincial and central government, though issues were democratically highlighted to them.

Reportedly, Chinese nationals and Pakistani security forces have continued to suffer from dangerous suicidal attacks from the inception of CPEC project. The Baloch separatist group (Baloch Liberation Army) claimed responsibilities of different attacks in Gwadar and Karachi on Chinese considering that they plunder and exploit Balochistan’s resources by the name of CPEC.

In December 2020, due to security challenges, the Pakistan Army started fencing the port city in the name of ‘Safe City Project’, but all in vain. The residents of Gwadar and entire Balochistan rejected the fencing of Gwadar city and protested under the banner of Pakistan Democratic Movement to stop fencing Gwadar, as it was a clear plan for division of the population and restricting them from free movement in the port city. Slogan ‘Stop Fencing Gwadar’ was everyone’s raised-voice and petitions were filed in the court about the unlawful act of fencing Gwadar.

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Munir Kakar, the Vice Chairman Balochistan Bar Council, stated that fencing Gwadar was a violation of the fundamental rights of citizens guaranteed under the Constitution. As for the Safe City project was concerned, no country had fenced the areas dividing half of its population out and half in by imposing unlawful restrictions, rather with the new technology like cameras, radars and drones, the issue of insecurity could be addressed easily. What happened was that the project to fence Gwadar city was made rejected by its residents and it was stopped later.

So, fencing Gwadar city wasn’t the only issue for its residents, rather in December 2021, Maulana Hidayat-ur-Rehman, (Balochistan general secretary of Jamaat-i-Islami) led the ‘Gwadar ko haq do’ movement in which many thousands of people participated in marching on the main roads, chanting slogans against provincial government and demanding their fundamental rights. The protest lasted for a month having several demands to be accepted and implemented for the prosperity of local residents of Gwadar.

Zahoor Ahmed Buledi, the Provincial  Minister for Planning and Development, visited the protesters for negotiation to end the Dharna. As he tweeted, “Negotiations with Maulana Hidayatur Rehman, in the presence of the chief minister, have been successful. The government has accepted all the demands of Maulana sahib and the dharna is to be called off.”

The CPEC project should have benefited the local residents to have a standardized livelihood and get their basic rights including proper education, health, pure water, electricity and ending illegal fishing and other abuses. Unfortunately, they have been unheard and neglected greatly even though the government promised fulfilling all their 16 demands. Gwadar has been undergoing from several problematic issues, yet they are not eradicated from the roots. The central and provincial governments always expect CPEC to be a road-map of economic prosperity and development, but they never thought how ignored and deprived the residents of Gwadar are from their fundamental rights.

Prosperity must have begun from where the CPEC projects are initiated, not from outside, because it is the local residents’ basic right to get the benefits from ongoing projects. CPEC may remain an unsuccessful project if the people of Balochistan including Gwadar become neglected from their fundamental rights and livelihood.

Shakeel
The writer tweets @Shakeelphullan

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