December 2nd, 2021
By Ahmed Saeed
Gwadar, a port city of Balochistan and the gateway of the multi-billion dollar China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has been engulfed with protests for over two weeks now.
The protests are organized by the Haq Do Gwadar Tehreek [Give rights to Gwadar] movement, in which demonstrators are demanding a stop to illegal trawling off the Gwadar coast, removal of security check posts and provision of clean drinking water to the city.
Haq Do Gawadar Tehreek is spearheaded by the General Secretary of the Jamaat-i-Islami Balochistan chapter, Maulana Hidayat-ur-Rehman, however Rehman claims that the movement has the support of all segments of society and political parties.
“This is basically a people’s movement,” he tells Voicepk.net. “In the past, the youth of Balochistan picked up arms in retaliation to the injustices meted out to them, but we are peaceful and democratic people and would continue our struggle under the ambit of the Constitution.”
How the movement started
According to Rehman, Gwadar had been neglected for long and the fury of the masses had long been simmering. He said that people wanted to speak for their rights but were fearful of the consequences.
“A few months back, we had a meeting with security officials where I categorically told them that we [the people of Gwadar] will not tolerate any humiliation. We are not people without honour,” Rehman said. “When people saw that I have been speaking for their rights without any fear, they stood with me because I have broken this reign of fear.”
However, he lamented that as the movement is getting more support, select elements have launched a campaign against him, branding him an agent of anti-CPEC forces.
“This has become practice… instead of listening to people’s grievances, these elements start labeling them as agents. We asked for clean drinking water and in reply they say ‘you are an Indian agent!’”
Talking about the main demands of the movement, Rehman said the main issue is the economic woes of the people, which have amplified due to trawler mafia and restrictions on trade with Iran.
“We are not asking the government to give us our share in CPEC or provide us an Orange Line Train, neither are we demanding that we be given jobs. We just want the government to let us work freely,” he stated.
He added that if they are allowed to work, then they will pay back to the government in the form of taxes.
Rehman stated that the trawler mafia is destroying marine life at the port, but they are too powerful for anyone to dare to stop them.
“They are so influential that, despite our ongoing protests, the trawler mafia has not stopped their operations even for a day.”
“Don’t ask my identity five times a day”
In the last few years, there have been terrorist attacks in Gwadar which have claimed scores of innocent lives. Since the city is a major hub for CPEC’s route, the military has been deployed to guard the city. There are many security pickets inside the city, which have become a contentious issue between security forces and people.
“The second major issue that we are facing is of security check posts,” Rehman said. “We understand there are security issues in the area but why are there security check posts after every kilometer? Why am I asked to prove my identity five times a day?”
He further stated that he has raised this issue with civil and military officials who have assured him that it will be resolved amicably in the coming days.
Women will remain part of our movement
Although Rehman is an office-bearer of the Jamat-i-Islami, a right-wing political force, and does not explicitly encourage women to participate in street demonstrations, he has however received praise for organizing a women’s rally on November 29, in which hundreds of women marched through the city of Gwadar and delivered speeches for their rights.
Rehman says that he believes that no movement can become successful without the participation of women in it as they are half of the population.
“They also face the same issues as men, do so they also have the right to protest. They will remain part of our movement and fight with us shoulder to shoulder. We want women to be politically and socially aware.”