Gwadar protests ended- now time to act on promises

 The people of Gwadar showed determination, courage and unity during month long struggle for rights 

The more than month long protest movement ended after government announced to accept all the 20 demands for basic rights. In a month long protest movement, massive rallies were organised in which tens of thousands of women, children, traders, fisherman, students, young people and political activists participated. Despite the massive rallies, sit-ins and marches, the movement remained peaceful and focused on its demands.

The people of Gwadar showed determination, courage and unity on the streets of Gwadar to force the government to accept their legitimate demands. The normalcy has returned to Gwadar since then. But the peace and calm in Gwadar now depends on the attitude and acts of the Baluchistan and federal governments.

The anger and discontent shown by the people of Gwadar in huge numbers is the result of years of neglect, deprivation non-availability of basic services and needs. The successive governments made promises with the people of Gwadar but never seriously tried to fulfill the promises.

The basic facilities like health, education and clean drinking water was not provided. And other issues like power, law and order, security check points, fishing rights, fisherman’s livelihood and border trade were not addressed. So the people were left with no other option but to take to streets as the last resort.

Provincial Minister for Planning and Development Mir Zahoor Ahmed Buledi announced on Twitter shortly after that negotiation with Maulana Hidayatur Rehman (the leader of the Gwadar protest movement) had been successful. Meanwhile, Maulana Hidayatur Rehman took to the stage at the site of the protest to call off the sit-in.

"Negotiations with Maulana Hidayatur Rehman, in the presence of the chief minister, have been successful. The government has accepted all the demands of Maulana sahib and the dharna is to be called off," Buledi said.

The Baluchistan chief minister visited the site of the protest and informed them that their demands had been accepted. Addressing the protesters, CM Bizenjo said that a complete ban had been imposed on illegal fishing and directions had been issued to the departments concerned.

"These are all legitimate demands," he said. Providing the people of Gwadar with development projects and basic facilities is among our top priorities, he added.

Meanwhile, Maulana Rehman said he signed the agreement with CM Bizenjo in front of the protesters and expressed the hope that it would be implemented.

"The struggle for the rights of the people of Gwadar and Baluchistan will continue under the platform of the Haq Do Tehreek," he said on Twitter where he also shared a copy of the agreement between the two sides.

Their demands ranged from the presence of large fishing trawlers encroaching on their livelihood to lack of health facilities and drinking water.

On the face of it, Gwadar city should have been an unlikely location for a rights-based demonstration, already a rarity in Balochistan’s heavily securitised environment. The port, after all, is the centerpiece of the much-vaunted economic corridor that has long been touted as a ‘game changer’ for the country, and especially for those living in its shadow.

But the fact that tens of thousands of people not only from Gwadar but also from other districts participated in the dharna was testament to an ugly reality that people in Pakistan’s largest province live with every day.

The people face problems on daily basis while traveling due to the presence of large number of security check points. Residents in these districts complain of being treated like strangers in their own land, questioned about their movements, restricted from certain areas after sunset. People feel humiliated and alienated on their own lands.  

The governments should fulfill the promises made with protestors and their demands for basic rights and needs must be met. It is a high time for the government to show to the people of Gwadar that the government is serious to resolve their problems through practical measures and actions. The people of Gwadar must not be let down this time.  

                                                                   The Editor

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