Pakistan Reader# 255, 7 December 2021
On 6 December, the protests in Gwadar, led by a Jamaat-i-Islami leader, Maulana Hidayatur Rehman continued for the 22nd day. The protest movement, now named “Gwadar Ko Huqooq Do Tehreek” or the “Gwadar Haq Dou Tehreek” (Give Rights to Gwadar Movement), presents 19 demands related to employment, availability of basic rights and facilities, and development projects.
The ongoing protests: Four major highlights
First, the demands of the protesters: Dawn shares a list of demands and the progress made on it, as released by the director general of public relations of Balochistan. From livelihood issues to drinking water to rights of protesters, the demands are wide-ranging. The main demand focuses on bringing an end to the “trawler mafia” or illegal trawlers. The rest of the demands include: non-interference in trade along the Iran border, freedom for fishermen to go to sea; removal of unnecessary checkposts; closing down wine shops in Gwadar; a university in Gwadar; the education department's non-teaching staff positions to be filled; curbing the sale of fake medicines; waivers and subsidies on utility bills; releasing cars and boats the coastguard had seized; clean drinking water; preference to locals for jobs in development projects; implementation of an agreement with the Dar Bela affectees; compensation to Expressway affectees; withdraw cases filed against protest leaders and remove their names from Fourth Schedule; compensation for occurred from storms and illegal trawlers; replace DG GDA, DC Gwadar AC Pasni; quota for disabled people; and, an open Kulki point for transportation of oil and essentials.
Second, the inclusive protests. The ongoing protests witnessed the participation of women, mostly along the Makran division, wherein they said they were forced to take to the streets as the earning members of their families were out of jobs. The youth and children also participated in the protests and the Maulana called it a “historic rally.” An opinion in Dawn indicates that the participation from all age groups indicates that the problems affect everyone in Gwadar and is not limited to a particular group of people. Apart from the wide gender and age dynamics, the protesters also included people from outside Gwadar, namely, Turbat, Pasni, Buleda, Pishkan, Zamran, and Ormara.
Third, the media attention. Unlike previous protests in Gwadar, which did not receive necessary attention from the mainstream media, there has been constant coverage of the ongoing protests. The composition of the protesters could be one factor contributing to this. Further, social media attention has also taken the lead to make the people’s demands heard, by using hashtags #Gwadar and #GwadarProtests, and sharing videos and pictures of the protesting women and children.
Fourth, the rise of Maulana Hidayat. An opinion in The News on Sunday explains that several political experts are puzzled by the rise of a religious leader as the voice of the people. The author details that Maulana Hidayat hails from a fisherman’s family in Gwadar’s Surbundan area and therefore, has secured the support of fishermen alliances. Further, the author outlines that Maulana Hidayat’s previous demonstration and the subsequent inclusion of his name in the 4th Schedule has helped increase his support base.
According to the public relations official mentioned above, several demands have been met including the removal of unnecessary checkposts, completion of inspection of medical stores, payment of compensation, and shutting down of wine shops. To address the other demands, the respective committees and officials have been informed and necessary procedures have been initiated.
Other recent protests in Gwadar
The ongoing protests started barely two months after the people of Gwadar and Turbat demanded access to basic necessities like drinking water, healthcare facilities and employment opportunities in Gwadar, particularly areas like Makran. These protests began in late August and in September, the Maulana said that the protests were a call for basic rights “which have been usurped by the rulers.”
A previous column in the Pakistan Reader, by D. Suba Chandran, highlighted the who and why of the protests in Gwadar. Chandran wrote, “Two issues are of importance here – the question of local ownership and the fishing rights, and the question of fishing by non-Baloch fishermen.” Apart from this, Chandran highlighted that in the larger picture, the issue is not limited to Gwadar, but extends to the grievances of Balochistan against the federal government. Lastly, the unrest stems from the expectations of the local communities in Gwadar from the CPEC projects. During one of the sit-ins, Maulana Hidayat threatened that if the people’s demands were not met, he would close down the CPEC projects. The opinion in Dawn mentioned above, also echoes this and says that since the idea CPEC was initiated, people of Gwadar were promised development by both the provincial and the federal government; however, in the process, the basic necessities of people have been ignored.
The demands framed in the ongoing protests, therefore, signal that there is an expansion in putting forward the grievances of the people and also in the group of people affected. Previously, the woes of the fishermen were at the forefront of the protests; however, now the call for education facilities, better cross-border trading facilities, and basic demand like that for clean water, indicate that everyone in Gwadar is unhappy with the developments in the region.
Ghalib Nihad, “Scores of women rally in Balochistan's Gwadar for basic rights,” Dawn, 29 November 2021
Ghalib Nihad, “Gwadar protest enters day 22 as govt shares list of progress made on demands,” Dawn, 6 December 2021
Maryam Zia Baloch, “Gwadar’s women,” Dawn, 5 December 2021
Adnan Aamir, “On Gwadar’s grievances,” The News on Sunday, 28 November 2021
Behram Baloch, “Thousands demand basic facilities in Gwadar, Turbat,” Dawn, 1 October 2021
D Suba Chandran, “Protests in Gwadar: Who and Why,” Pakistan Reader, 1 October 2021