Karachi: Massive protests have erupted in Pakistan’s port city of Gwadar against unnecessary checkpoints, part of a growing backlash in the country against China’s multibillion-dollar belt and road projects. The protests organised by workers of some political parties, civil rights activists, fishermen and concerned citizens have been going on for a week at Y Chowk on Port Road in Gwadar, a coastal town in the restive southwest Balochistan province of Pakistan. The protesters demand the removal of unnecessary security check posts, availability of drinking water and electricity, eviction of big fishing trawlers from Makran coast and opening of the border with Iran from Panjgur to Gwadar, Jang newspaper reported.
Head of the ‘Give rights to Gwadar’ rally Maulana Hidayat ur Rehman said the protests would continue until their demands are met, asserting that the government has not been sincere in resolving the problems of the local people in the region. Rehman has strongly criticised the government in the past for failing to resolve the basic problems of the people of Gwadar. “We are demanding the rights of Gwadar, which were usurped by the rulers and the people were even deprived of basic needs. The protests are part of growing discontent with China’s presence in Gwadar. The port is an integral part of the $60 billion CPEC, the flagship project of China’s multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative. India has protested to China over the CPEC as it traverses through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Gwadar port has long been portrayed as the jewel in the CPEC crown, but in the process, the city has become the very embodiment of a security state. The authorities’ priorities are geared towards securing the port and its ancillary interests; the welfare of those for whom the area is home counts for little. Existing privations have deepened; people’s mobility is restricted by security forces and there is unwarranted questioning of their activities. Many say they are made to feel like strangers in their own land.