November 11, 2023
By Xari Jalil
The Chaman border issue came into focus in the mainstream media once again, after the leader of the Haq Dou Gwadar Tehreek and the general secretary of Jamaat-i-Islami Balochistan, ‘Molana’ Hidayat-ur-Rehman Baloch, was detained in his office on Friday, stopping him from attending the protest.
A non-violent sit-in at the Chaman Border has been in place since over 21 days, with no media coverage, and generally ignored by the government. Yet the locals continue to sit there pushing for their demands to be heard by the government.
Speaking to Voicepk, Hidayat-ur-Rehman said he had been ready to leave for the protest when government officials came and stopped him from leaving.
“SSP police, and other senior government officials came to my office in Al Falah House which is the JI’s provincial office. They told me, that they could not allow me to attend the protest as there was serious security threat against me,” he told Voicepk. “This is quite ironic because Mehmood Khan Achakzai went there and no one stopped him from attending,” said Rehman the next day.
Thousands of people are sitting at the Spin Boldak border which has always been porous and has been crossed over many times supports the lives of everyone who lives in the border city. The primary concern of these people is that they have to cross over the border into Afghanistan for work, and then return home at the end of the day.
With the border now requiring passports and visas the locals are afraid their only economic opportunity in the area will be taken away from them and they will lose their chance of finding work and surviving.
“The locals have been trying and trying very hard for the government to listen to their demands,” said Hidayatur Rehman. “They say, you can reject what we have to say or accept it – but at least hear us out. They are carrying out a peaceful protest in order to be heard. But the government doesn’t care.”
Hidayat-ur-Rehman has not been stopped from gathering crowds for the first time in fact he was arrested earlier this year in January in connection with the killing of a policeman, and for inciting violence in Gwadar however he was given bail in May.
“Obviously, I am speaking for these people that is why I am being targeted,” he said. “We are being made slaves, we are arrested for speaking out. We call a spade a spade and that is why we are stopped!”
But Hidayat-ur-Rehman is not the only was the second popular leader to face this curb this week.
On Wednesday, leader of the National Democratic Movement (NDM) Mohsin Dawar had gone to Quetta to participate in the protest in Chaman, however the local administrations in Quetta and Chaman issued advisories against him. Ultimately he was stopped from attending the protest. He was escorted back to the airport in Quetta by the police and returned to Islamabad.
Local authorities in Quetta and Chaman stopped me from participating in the protest in Chaman. A few weeks ago,I was not allowed to participate in our party’s event in Bajaur.The playing field is being leveled for a few. We stand in solidarity with the Chaman sit-in.#ChamanSitIn pic.twitter.com/N2CubzjhSY
— Mohsin Dawar (@mjdawar) November 9, 2023
“The NDM, the PMAP led by Khushal Kakar, PTM, ANP are all on the same page when it comes to the Chaman border issue and the Afghan refugee issue,” says Khushal Khattak, a member of the NDM while speaking to Voicepk. “And we are seeing how we are being systematically stopped from being part of this people’s protest. Before this in a rally in Muslimbagh, Quetta, we had FIRs lodged against us.”
Meanwhile Hidayatur Rehman stressed the ‘double standards’ of the government to allow some leaders while not others.
“Mehmood Khan Achakzai was allowed to reach there and take part in the protest,” he said. “Perhaps that is because he has always been more compromising with the government. I would say some of these political leaders are very flexible in their attitudes so the government is softer on them. Actually when the orders come from somewhere other than the sitting government then its different too.”
Rehman said that the government instead of having better relations with Afghanistan and coming up with solutions about this issue is actually just stopping the process of reconciliation and creating enmity. “What is the point of cordoning off a border that has always been porous? People who go there to work are also your citizens, why neglect them?” he asked angrily. “World over people go across borders to work and return. The government should come up with solutions, not make restrictions.”
However Rehman also voiced his disillusionment with the state and successive governments.
“Actually there is a good reason to create disturbance,” he says. “If there is peace and stability, how will we find more budget for more checkposts andmore reason for increased surveillance and security?”