Tuesday, July 23, 2024
HomeWorldGwadar protests: 'Anti-Chinese' protests erupt in China's rental state threatening to unravel the China-Pakistan...

Gwadar protests: ‘Anti-Chinese’ protests erupt in China’s rental state threatening to unravel the China-Pakistan relationship

Rehman warned Chinese citizens residing in Gwadar that if the government chooses to ignore their peaceful rallies, the populace has the right to take up and use guns and weapons to defend their rights.

Gwadar, the port city located on the southwestern coast of Balochistan, Pakistan, is in news for the past two months due to the ongoing protests led by Maulana Hidayat ur Rehman. The Haq Do Tehreek (Give Rights to Gwadar) protests are termed to be anti-Chinese, as the protestors are asking the Chinese nationals to vacate the port area while demanding rights for the local Baloch people.

Rehman warned Chinese citizens residing in Gwadar that if the government chooses to ignore their peaceful rallies, the populace has the right to take up and use guns and weapons to defend their rights. According to the reports, thousands of protesters in Balochistan have used Chinese nationals as a negotiation chip to get their concerns addressed.

The protest saw violence in the last week of December in which a policeman was killed, as the leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) in Balochistan, Rehman asked the Chinese to leave the port area. Due to Chinese influence and total negligence by the Pakistani government, Balochistan is said to have been experiencing various issues for a long time. Chinese nationals at the Gwadar port have recently been asked to leave within a week due to the lack of development and economic growth fueled by Chinese colonialism in the area. 

Demands put up by the Baloch protesters at Gwadar

After the violence, Maulana Rehman was not arrested as he slipped away from the protests and disappeared from Gwadar. However, the Police managed to arrest his second-in-command, Hussain Wadala. The Police also arrested 100 other people, including local journalists, for the violence at the sit-in protests by the Baloch community. The demonstrators want a halt to China’s unlawful trawling and are asking for the supply of necessities like water, electricity, and jobs, as well as the opening of the border with Iran to trade.

“I did not want to run away but my movement colleagues wanted me to leave the port town as they feared for my life. But I am going back to Gwadar to face my cases,” Maulana Rehman said.

However, he refused to have a problem with the Chinese leaving Gwadar. “I am neither against the Chinese nor am I against the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor,” he claimed and added that weapons were used because the illegal trawlers that travel from Karachi to rob the local fishermen of their livelihood were not being dealt with by the authorities. “Our demands are simple and they are not anti-constitutional,” he affirmed.

Police conducted a crackdown to disperse the crowd

Maulana Rehman held his protests in Y Chowk in Gwadar, which is close to the city’s main port area, drawing a sizable audience. After that, his group of protesters proceeded to the intersection of the deep sea port and the Eastbay Expressway, which connects the port to the major Makran Coastal Highway. There, they attempted to obstruct the flow of traffic to the port. The crackdown that happened on the evening of December 26, 2022, on Maulana Rehman and his supporters was the result of these sit-ins.

Reports mention that the security personnel who conducted the crackdown were masked and fired tear gas in an attempt to try and disperse the crowd. While this continued, some of the Baloch protesters thought that their leader was shot. Though the Maulana had earlier said that the protests would be non-violent and peaceful, the protesters also set the police DIG’s (Deputy Inspector General) office gate on fire. “The cops did not serve us biryani last night so why should we be peaceful and non-violent!” the protesters yelled.

The police in the crackdown reportedly arrested hundreds of protesters including Maulana’s elder brothers Aslam Baloch and Mohammad Jan Baloch, and his second-in-command Hussain Wadala. However, the Maulana managed to escape to Karachi and is said to soon return to the protest site. The government also brought peace to Gwadar by banning gatherings and cutting off internet connectivity.

Locals support Maulana Hidayat ur Rehman and the Gwadar movement

Many Baloch locals seem to support Maulana for holding the protests and the demand for their rights. Mohammad Jan, elder brother of Maulana Rehman said that he had nothing to do with the politics but was concerned about the rights of the Baloch fishermen. “I am a government employee in the fisheries department. I wonder why the authorities arrested me and my elder brother, who is a fisherman, despite the fact that we have nothing to do with his politics. Unlike Aslam, the cops beat me up before putting us behind bars. They did not serve us anything for three consecutive days in that jail,” he said.

Maasi Zainab, who brings women to Maulana Rehman’s protests and sit-ins said that people in Gwadar are deprived of their livelihood. “In Gwadar’s sea, trawlers rule the roost and they leave nothing for us to fish, including the eggs of the fish. Maulana speaks out against this injustice, among other things. This is why he has been arrested.”

Another local stated that residents in Gwadar are being forced to demand that their way of life and means of subsistence be protected, and not be sacrificed on the altar of projects as a result of the entry of Chinese laborers for CPEC-related projects.

“Entire communities have had to be relocated as the port has grown to make room for the relentless steam train of progress. For many locals, this has resulted in the systematic eradication of their way of life in addition to the loss of their property, access to certain fishing grounds, and towns. It appears that these complaints have finally boiled over since they have been progressively increasing over the previous 20 years,” he added.

“The people in Gwadar are on the roads because they have been frustrated for quite some time now. On the other hand, over the last two decades, the expectations from the locals have increased from successive governments, which say that Gwadar should be the second Dubai or Singapore. All this, while the people of Gwadar are still deprived of basic amenities,” social activist Nasir Rahim Sohrabi was quoted as saying by the Dawn.

According to the reports, Sohrabi is correct to argue that the people of Gwadar have not suddenly fought for their rights. Their problems are numerous, and intricate, and have been lingering for many years. The people have been living on their own property for decades, but as a result of development projects that have taken place throughout the whole area, not just the port town, they have been losing their ground swiftly.

Protest posing a potential threat to China-Pakistan relations

Notably, Pakistan’s current largest issue is preventing the collapse of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is a cornerstone under development in the Balochistan port city of Gwadar. The protests are now posing potential harm to bilateral economic relations between China and Pakistan as the Gwadar post is a key component of CPEC.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), frequently hailed as Pakistan’s future lifeline, is centered on Gwadar. The Gwadar port project has been in the news since the beginning of 2000, during the reign of former dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who praised China’s support at the Gwadar opening ceremony.

Following the 2015 announcement of CPEC by the Chinese President Xi Jinping, the port city of Gwadar gained significant prominence. Since then, Gwadar has been referred to as CPEC’s crown jewel, and CPEC has been referred to as the centerpiece of Beijing’s multibillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Pakistan’s close diplomatic ties with Beijing preclude it from taking legal action against Chinese trawlers engaged in deep sea fishing. China, which is putting more effort into the development of a deep-sea port, has also kept quiet on the subject. Chinese President Xi Jinping had asked Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to boost security for Chinese nationals working in Pakistan over two months ago. Beijing has also pressed Islamabad to provide more funding for the CPEC projects and to settle debts owed to Chinese businesses. 

The Baloch community, meanwhile, has suspicions about the economic ties between Beijing and Islamabad. It is obvious that the long-held frustrations of the inhabitants in Gwadar will continue to intensify the escalating tensions as long as the current situation in the city prevails.

Join OpIndia's official WhatsApp channel

  Support Us  

Whether NDTV or 'The Wire', they never have to worry about funds. In name of saving democracy, they get money from various sources. We need your support to fight them. Please contribute whatever you can afford

Searched termsCPEC Pakistan China
Siddhi Somani
Siddhi Somani
Siddhi Somani is known for her satirical and factual hand in Economic, Social and Political writing. Having completed her post graduation in Journalism, she is pursuing her Masters in Politics. The author meanwhile is also exploring her hand in analytics and statistics. (Twitter- @sidis28)

Related Articles

Trending now

‘Sar Tan Se Juda’ slogans in UP: Kanpur Police books 40 over murderous slogans raised by mob during Muharram procession

A video of the incident on Muharram has gone viral online. After this, the police said they are analysing the video and action will be taken accordingly. The investigation of the matter was handed over to Kalyanpur ACP Abhishek Kumar Pandey and now the police have registered a case against 40 people.

Budget 2024: FM Nirmala Sitharaman lays out nine priorities of the Modi government

One of the priorities includes- the First Timers Scheme - a 1-month wage to all persons newly entering the workforce in all formal sectors will be provided by the government in 3 instalments.

Recently Popular

- Advertisement -