Skip to main content

Gwadar’s lessons




Published December 20, 2021 - Updated 

The writer is a journalist.

PROTESTING for one’s rights is a risky endeavour at the best of times, and nowhere is this truer than in Balochistan, where the risk of a crackdown in the name of national security and law and order, is ever present. And when it comes to Gwadar, the once-to-be jewel in the CPEC crown, the chance of any such protest being written off as anti-state, or carried out at the behest of Pakistan’s many enemies, increases manifold.

In this context, the success of the recent protests in Gwadar is particularly noteworthy because in the countless speeches given during the 32 days of rallies and sit-ins, not even a 30-second clip could be found that could, with or without context, paint the protesters or their leader Maulana Hidayat-ur-Rehman in a negative light.

No doubt aware of this potential pitfall, the maulana kept a laser focus on the demands and avoided any language or innuendo that may have landed him in trouble or led to the accusation that some nefarious ‘agenda’ (a word we are very fond of) was at play. It is a testament to his political acumen and self-control that, unlike similar protests in the past, not a single clip — however truncated — made the rounds in an attempt to paint him as ‘anti-national’. That’s quite an accomplishment given the dozens of speeches that were given in this period, and it also speaks to the discipline of the protesters that they did not ever give the slightest impression of turning violent and thus precipitate a crackdown.

Read more: The rise of Maulana

Initially, both the state and the media, the latter ever wary of crossing a sometimes self-imposed red line, largely ignored the protests in the hope that they would fizzle out. When it showed no sign of doing so, there came the usual lip service and empty assurances, something the locals are all too used to. Finally, with the PM taking notice of the situation and dispatching two federal ministers, the Balochistan government redoubled its efforts and ended up promising to not just acknowledge, but also implement the measures the protesters had been demanding.

The maulana kept a laser focus on the demands.

Top of the list of issues is the problem of illegal trawling in Balochistan’s coastal waters. While some point to the presence of foreign trawlers, both the maulana and the Balochistan government claim that the real issue is trawlers from Sindh which, they claim, often fish without permits and use nets that leave little or nothing for the local fishermen, whose boats and equipment are simply no match for the resources of the trawlers. Those connected with the seafood export industry say that it’s not as clear cut as that, and that a long-term solution would have to have Sindh and Balochistan sit with the federal government and work out a solution that balances the needs of the industry with the needs of the locals, for whom this is literally a bread-and-butter issue.

Apart from fishing, the other main source of livelihood in the area is ‘trade’ with Iran, which — to be honest — is often a byword for smuggling. Now, from the top-down state perspective, smuggling of course cannot be allowed. But on the ground it, like fishing, remains one of the only sources of livelihood for the locals. This is in itself an indictment of the development model favoured by our political and bureaucratic elite: one that showcases cricket stadiums, airports and housing societies as hallmarks of progress, but ignores the demands of the locals. Any such model is doomed to fail, while also engendering deep resentment which, in turn, promises that future ‘development’ will be viewed with well-deserved cynicism. That resentment, if allowed to build, then plays directly to the benefit of forces that may have very different agendas.

Read more: The Gwadar crisis is a product of Islamabad’s extractive approach towards development in Balochistan

With that in mind it is certainly a relief that wiser minds prevailed and that the protest has, for now, been called off with the promise that if the demands, which include the provision of drinking water and regular supply of electricity, are not fulfilled, then the protests will resume.

Editorial: Peace in Gwadar depends on the state's understanding of depth of disaffection within Baloch society

Nevertheless, the success is significant, and does hold some lessons for those who are inclined to learn them. For one, the laser-like focus on the actual demands, without any hint of a maximalist agenda or ‘mission creep’ kept the leadership centred. And because the demands were so fundamental to the well-being of the people, the crowds kept growing in size with time, as opposed to protests we have seen that peter out the longer they go on. Also, despite the fact that Maulana Hidayat comes from the Jamaat-i-Islami, there was no overt presence of a single political party during the protests and, despite dark mutterings from local nationalists, no real hint of a JI agenda. For all the parties currently trying and failing to mobilise the masses, the real lesson here is that if you cater to the people, and not your personal brand of politics, success is certainly easier to find.

The writer is a journalist.

Twitter: @zarrarkhuhro

Published in Dawn, December 20th, 2021
https://www.dawn.com/news/1664720?ref=whatsapp

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

SSG Commando Muddassir Iqbal of Pakistan Army

“ Commando Muddassir Iqbal was part of the team who conducted Army Public School operation on 16 December 2014. In this video he reveals that he along with other commandos was ordered to kill the innocent children inside school, when asked why should they kill children after killing all the terrorist he was told that it would be a chance to defame Taliban and get nation on the side. He and all other commandos killed children and later Taliban was blamed. Muddassir Iqbal has deserted the military and now he is  with mujahedeen somewhere in AF PAK border area” For authenticity of  this tape journalists can easy reach to his home town to interview his family members or   ISPR as he reveals his army service number” Asalam o Alaikum: My name is Muddassir Iqbal. My father’s name is Naimat Ali. I belong to Sialkot divison (Punjab province), my village is Shamsher Poor and district, tehsil and post office  Narowal. Unfortunately I was working in Pakistan army. I feel embarrassed to tell yo

RWR Advisory: Belt and Road at a Glance

This edition covers developments from March 12 - March 26..  Belt and Road at a Glance   Subscribe to the Belt and Road Monitor Top Developments China National Machinery Industry Corporation, commonly known as Sinomach, has agreed to  build  a $845 million, 255-mile railway across  Iran , building upon a sustained period of growth for Chinese investment in Iran that accelerated after Xi Jinping’s state visit to the country in January 2016. The railway will link the cities of Tehran, Hamedan and Sanandaj. China Civil Engineering Construction, a subsidiary of CRCC, is currently also  building  a 263-km railway line from Kermanshah to Khosravi. According to Chinese entrepreneur Lin Zuoru, who  owns  factories in Iran, “Iran is at the center of everything.”On March 23, China’s Ministry of Commerce announced that foreign direct investment by Chinese companies in 50 Belt and Road countries fell by 30.9% year-on-year. While the Ministry stated that this number covers investment across al

CPEC Jobs in Pakistan, salary details

JOBS...نوکریاں چائنہ کمپنی میں Please help the deserving persons... Salary: Salary package in China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in these 300,000 jobs shall be on daily wages. The details of the daily wages are as follows; Welder: Rs. 1,700 daily Heavy Duty Driver: Rs. 1,700 daily Mason: Rs. 1,500 daily Helper: Rs. 850 daily Electrician: Rs. 1,700 daily Surveyor: Rs. 2,500 daily Security Guard: Rs. 1,600 daily Bulldozer operator: Rs. 2,200 daily Concrete mixer machine operator: Rs. 2,000 daily Roller operator: Rs. 2,000 daily Steel fixer: Rs. 2,200 daily Iron Shuttering fixer: Rs. 1,800 daily Account clerk: Rs. 2,200 daily Carpenter: Rs. 1,700 daily Light duty driver: Rs. 1,700 daily Labour: Rs. 900 daily Para Engine mechanic: Rs. 1,700 daily Pipe fitter: Rs. 1,700 daily Storekeeper: Rs. 1,700 daily Office boy: Rs. 1,200 daily Excavator operator: Rs. 2,200 daily Shovel operator: Rs. 2,200 daily Computer operator: Rs. 2,200 daily Security Supervisor: Rs.