Local anger boils in Pakistan’s Gwadar port town against CPEC projects

Gwadar, a southwestern port city in Pakistan, has been witnessing prolonged protest as locals staged sit-in on a key highway demanding the removal of security checkpoints, end to electricity shortage, and illegal fishing

Nov 23, 2021
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Pakistan’s Gwadar port town against CPEC projects (Dawn)

Gwadar, a southwestern port city in Pakistan, has been witnessing prolonged protest as locals staged sit-in on a key highway demanding the removal of security checkpoints, end to electricity shortage, and illegal fishing. The city is a key site in the $70 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the centrepiece of Beijing’s ambitious multibillion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Locals have been feeling marginalized as the town, which is being developed for the Gwadar port, sees heightened security measures after multiple attacks on Chinese projects over the years. The shortage of drinking water and electricity further crippled the local communities, which accuse the government of diverting these resources to Chinese settlements.  

Protestors from local political parties, civil rights groups and the fishermen community have been staging a sit-in for a week at Y Chowk on Port Road in Gwadar. 

Protestors also demanded the eviction of big fishing trawlers from the Makran coast and the opening of the border with Iran from Panjgur to Gwadar, according to the Jang newspaper. 

Last week, the provincial government had sent a delegation to protestors to resolve the crisis. However, efforts failed to end the deadlock, according to a report in The Express Tribune.

Maulana Hidayat ur Rehman, one of the organizers, said that they would continue the protest until their demands were met. The government has not been sincere in resolving the problems of the local people living in the region, said Rahman, who is also the provincial head of the Jammat-e-Islami party, reported PTI. 

Significantly, Pakistan officials have recently stepped up security in the areas housing Chinese nationals and workers, following frequent attacks by Baloch insurgents who accuse China and Pakistan of colonizing their land. Top Chinese officials in recent meetings had insisted on “enhanced security measures” for their nationals in the country.

There is also anger among people for diverting their water and electricity to the areas housing Chinese workers and engineers in the port town. Some areas in the region have been facing electricity cuts, sometimes for more than 21 hours a day. 

(SAM)