December 19th, 2020
By Ahmad Saeed
The Gwadar City fencing project has ruffled hairs and raised eyebrows, as it not only seeks to erect protective fencing around the metropolitan limits but also set up a single entry and exit point. However, the apartheid only ends up impinging upon the locals’ constitutional freedom of movement, and public officials and representatives from Gwadar understand this.
Still, Deputy Commissioner Gwadar Major (Retd) Kabir Khan posits that the fence is only a part of the city’s Master Plan approved by the Gwadar Development Board (GDB) which comprises local political leaders and stakeholders. The fence, he claims, would help improve security in the city.
The approved plan details that the fence will be set up around 35 kilometers from the city, including many of the suburban areas, while the cantonment and airport will be on the other side of the border. But he denied reports that ordinary citizens would only be allowed entry into Gwadar on special permits.
Hamaal Kalmati, member of the Balochistan Provincial Assembly representing the Balochistan National Party – Mengal (BNP-M) from Gwadar, says that contrary to what the DC has claimed, no local political leader was briefed on the particulars of the project.
“What makes Islamabad a safe city – where much of our political leadership is situated – is the abundance of cameras to monitor things,” he said. “But to set up a fence around Gwadar, where there are agricultural fields, where our elders whose ancestral lands are on either side of the proposed boundary is unacceptable. How will they move between their own lands?” he demands. “There are businesses and villages that will be cut off from the city fully. Entire families will be separated – a mother would have to travel all the way over to the exit point if she wants to meet her son on the other side of the fence.”
According to Khan, work on erecting the fence has already been initiated, while the locals are becoming increasingly worried with the passing of each day.
Khan however assures that open courts will be established to address the myriad complaints being received from locals in certain areas.
Meanwhile, Senator Usman Kakar of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Pary (PKMAP) says that the ultimate goal of the government is to separate the coastal belt under the excuse of raising security in the city.
“The government is propping up Gwadar as a free zone, a fount of development, another Dubai,” he says pointedly. “Was Dubai made by fencing it? This is an unveiled attempt to separate Gwadar from the rest of the province. If it is to raise the security of the city, then it’s better for the government to admit that it has failed to ensure security in the first place – if fencing is their best option. Terrorist incidents happen in every major city; terrorism is just an excuse to justify their ploy of separating the coastal belt from everything else.”
The President of the Gwadar Chamber of Commerce Naveed Kalmati believes that while security is a prerequisite for good business and sustained development, the decision to erect the fence must be made with the input and the support of local communities.
“We have proposed to the Government of Pakistan to set up ‘invisible checkposts’,” he says. “They will set up a couple of entry and exit points for vehicles, but they should do so with the approval of the locals first. Rather than restrict people at checkpoints, they should set up scanners. This is the era of technology, and we need to take advantage of it.”