Four weeks ago, the people of Gwadar port city launched the ‘Gwadar ko haq do’ (Give Gwadar Its Rights) movement. The protest not only continues but is snowballing as more and more men, women and children join it from interior Balochistan. According to the movement’s leader, Maulana Hidayat-ur-Rehman, the people would continue their protest till the achievement of their rights which had been denied to them for a long time. The government has accepted or agreed to consider quite a few of the 19 demands after three weeks of agitation.
Two of the most urgent issues still remain unresolved: action against the trawler mafia and resolution of issues on the Iran border, both affecting the livelihood of tens of thousands of the poor in Makran Division. With little agriculture and no industry in the region, millions of people living in Gwadar and adjoining areas depend on fishing for a livelihood. This is being threatened by trawlers from outside. The Illegal and unregulated fishing by Karachi-based trawlers and by foreign vessels have crippled Gwadar’s fragile economy and depleted fish stocks in Balochistan. The trawlers need to be stopped from fishing w5rhin Pakistan’s maritime borders.
There being no railway line in the region, Makran depends on importing basic food items from Iran. With the fencing of the border by Pakistan proceeding apace, the common people who could cross over to bring back food items feel the pinch and are forced to demand opening the border trade with Iran to ensure the livelihood of the people.
Western and Indian media had accused Chinese trawlers of being involved. This was denied both by China and Mr Rehman who termed China a friend of Gwadar, saying that the protesters were not at all against China, China-led development, or the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The protesters are putting up demands peacefully. It would be harmful to declare them rebels and traitors as was done in the case of Baloch leader Yousuf Masti Khan who was booked for, among other things, abetting waging of war against Pakistan. When the government stops people from airing their grievances peacefully, it forces them to take recourse to extra-parliamentary methods.