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Photo Source: Dawn

Pakistan Reader# 516, 14 January 2023

Gwadar Protests: Who is Maulana Hidayatur Rehman and why has the movement turned violent?



Arrest draws condemnations from Balochistan Bar Council for taking Rehman as a prisoner within premises of court

Abigail Miriam Fernandez

On 13 January, the Gwadar police arrested Haq Do Tehreek (HDT) leader Maulana Hidayatur Rehman after he arrive at a local court. His arrest comes four days after he announced that he was heading to Gwadar to surrender.

Meanwhile, the Balochistan Bar Council issued a statement condemning the arrest stating that Rehman was present at the court along with lawyers because he wanted legal assistance and was supposed to be present in the court for interim bail. It added, “today’s incident proved the Gwadar police has completely failed in protecting the people and their belongings” and instead has “established its own law and courts.”

Rehman’s arrest charges 
Previously, in December 2022, Balochistan Home Minister Ziaullah Langove directed the province’s police to register a case against Rehman on the charges of a killing of a policeman by unidentified assailants during the protests held by HDT supporters.

Later on 2 January, it was reported that the police has registered an FIR against Rehman on charges of murder, attempt to murder, provoking the people for violence and other charges. According to the FIR which was made available to Dawn, Rehman “provoked and incited the people sitting there (at the protest site) to pelt stones at government vehicles”, which allegedly resulted in the “shattering of car windows” of a police officer along with other losses. Meanwhile, other HDT leaders were arrested and moved to Quetta on 4 January for further interrogation on the case.

The HDT movement turns violent
Since November 2021, local Baloch people have engaged in frequent sit-ins as a part of the “Gwadar Haq Do Tehreek” (Gwadar Rights Movement). The protests have been taking place in front of the Gwadar port and other spots across the region. The recent set of protests which began in October 2022 saw a large demonstration in November 2022 where tens of thousands of protesters, including women and children, blocked an expressway leading to Gwadar port after what they said was the government’s failure to meet a deadline to implement their demands. Following this, on 15 December 2022, the resident of Gwadar called off their sit-in after successful negotiations with the government. Balochistan chief minister visited the site of the protest and told the residents their demands had been accepted stating that a complete ban had been imposed on illegal fishing and directions had been issued to the departments concerned.

However, the peaceful sit-in took a turn on 27 December 2022 after HDT activists and police clashed on the streets of Gwadar, in which the main gate of the police complex was also set on fire. The police launched a crackdown in which the protesters were tear-gassed and over a dozen arrested. The violence spurred a day after talks between the two sides for a settlement to end the two-month-long sit-in failed to make any results.

Demands of the movement
The HDT demands include an end to illegal trawling in Gwadar’s water, a high number of security checkpoints and the opening up of trade on the Pak-Iran border.

Who is Maulana Hidayatur Rehman?
Maulana Hidayatur Rehman, who has emerged as a popular leader among the masses blames the government’s “non-serious attitude” in addressing the concerns of the people. He claimed that the local people are protesting for “genuine issues” saying, “These are issues of the Baloch. There is no trade at the Pakistan-Iran border. There are still a great number of checkpoints. The issue of illegal trawling still persists.”

Rehman has taken single handily brought the politics and concerns of Gwadar to the forefront in the recent months. His popularity in the region has grown substantially for several reasons including his family background and connection to the fishing community, his ability mobilises the several factions under the larger movement and his strong criticism of the government. This has helped to gather the vital support of the people who have put their turn in the movement and the personality of Maulana Hidayatur Rehman.

References
Ismail Sasoli, “Gwadar police arrest Haq Do Tehreek leader over policeman’s killing during protests,” Dawn, 14 January 2023
Protesters tear-gassed, held as violence erupts in Gwadar,” Dawn, 27 December 2022
Behram Baloch, “Protesters block highway leading to Gwadar port,” Dawn, 21 November 2022
Amir Khakwani, “How did Maulana Hidayat-ur-Rehman get dramatic success?,” MM News, 16 December 2021

 

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