Gwadar and development? – Pakistan Today

A new port in a province ravaged by floods
Gwadar, the hub of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), has been the centre of attention for last few years, in particular for the interests of China vested upon the port city to reach the Strait of Hormuz, containing two-thirds of the world’s oil reserves and as per estimations seventeen billion of crude oil journey every day from the point at the mouth of Gwadar port of Balochistan (Pakistan) and Chah Bahar port of Balochistan (Iran).
China is interested in Gwadar port and aris investing to spread its supply and rule the international market by rooting in Europe and Africa through the port, part of the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative. Pakistan is equally supporting Chinese ambitions because she is getting benefits in form of funds and development projects in Islamabad and Punjab. In fact, she is also involved in the demographic changes taking place in Gwadar to settle more and more Punjabis and provide more comfort to the Chinese settlers in the city in present and in the time to come.
In-between all these, the Baloch population of Gwadar vociferate for basic amenities including water, bar on drugs, business allowance to supply oil and edible materials in the neighbouring Iran, ban on trawlers coming from either China or Sindh, fishing in deep water and educational rights. However, the government keeps visiting the city frequently to make ‘false promises’ and leave. But the people get nothing practical other than miseries and unending and open-ended waiting.
While speaking to the locals, they complain of various worries, including their concerns about the posts generated from the CPEC which, they say, are given to people with domiciles of Punjab, Sindh and Khayber Pakhtunkhwa and not the Baloch population living there. “Instead, we are asked to sell our properties for a higher amount,” said Rafiq Baloch, a resident of Gwadar’s New Town. “But who can make it clear to them where we will go once we sell out our land of ancestors?”
Rafiq’s concerns are not invalid. People have been  living here for ages and, when their own land is taken from them, where will they go? But he cannot stay there in Gwadar either. “We are not allowed to fish deep in water, while here in the vicinity we rarely get to catch fishes in a profitable amount,” he grieves.
What sickens him, and the rest of his community, is that they see trawlers, that too of outsiders, fishing deep in the sea. Not only do these trawlers fish in their sea but commit the genocide of the fishes with their trawlers ending the roots of fishes for the near future. “We fear the day when all the races of fishes are killed by them.” Rafiq and his fellows are afraid of the future of fishing.
The Baloch, along with their grievances, are left to ponder alternatives for themselves, if anything, as the fishermen predict, happens in future. For the past two decades in particular and seven decades in general, every federal government that came, or is in, power, only used the name of Gwadar for attainment of their ends, but no one really worked on the progress of the local population. Everyone used their sentiments and emotions. Parvez Musharraf in 2006 said, “Gwadar is the ladder of development.” But the locals are still thirsty for water.
Yousuf Raza Gilani in 2008 stated Gwadar as the “jugular vein of Pakistan” which would soon be on the way of prosperity, but we cannot see any practical work done during and after his PPP’s governance.
Nawaz Sharif in 2013 said, “Gwadar and Balochistan are the future of Pakistan,” but the same Gwadar and Balochistan are kept afar from any progress. The locals are being driven off and replaced by people from either Punjab or China.
Imran Khan in 2018 claimed that his ‘Naya Pakistan’s’ development would begin from Gwadar, but during his time in power (2018 till 2022) Gwadar was deprived of every facility which it owned prior to his government. In fact, the sole stadium, which was the talk of the world cricket, was snatched from the locals because it got international notice. As per the current situation, the Pakistani government is going to utilize the cricket ground as a tourist place and seize the right of local players to play any more in the ground.
The present NDM-led government’s prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif, too, had plenty of visits to the port city during the last few months. In a series of tweets after his visits, he criticised the PTI government for overlooking Gwadar despite presence of ample funds. He further said, “Time for presentations is over. Time for action is now. Gwadar is not just about infrastructure development; being part of CPEC, it has political, economic and strategic values. Turning Balochistan’s backwardness into prosperity is our collective responsibility and my mission.”
In his reign too, Gwadar has not got anything at ground level. The people keep looking for promises and witness them get crushed or lost amidst the heavy dust of time, but they keep hoping. They want the fundamentals of living and nothing more. However, it is yet not late if the government-in-rule realizes and fixes the issues of the residents. Gwadar was, in fact, always shown developed in the screens, but there was actually never a prosperous Gwadar. It is yet to be seen how the present government deals with the advancement of the port city.

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