In an unprecedented move, women in Gwadar rallied on Monday for their rights, and made an unequivocal point for easing trade and travel restrictions in the desolate province. There can’t be two opinions over it, and the demands of the backward districts of Balochistan should take precedence. It is no coincidence that such protests had taken place over the past several weeks in Turbat, Zamran, Ormara, Pasni, Piskhan and many other areas, and the common denominator was to solicit the attention of the authorities concerned over their plight. It shouldn’t be equated with politics as the issues are purely socio-economic in substance, and could neither be ignored nor denied anymore.
Balochistan is in the limelight as it is the theatre of CPEC-related projects. While Gwadar constitutes the bastion of big-ticket initiatives such as an evolving seaport and airport, it is ironic that the people are restless and protesting for basic civic amenities. This means the developmental mosaic is jaundiced and the locals are not on board! The cries from the Gwadar rally were quite clear, as they were asking for potable water, civic amenities, and employment opportunities for locals. Likewise, they pointed out hindrances in fishing in open seas at the hands of illegal trawlers, and also called for lifting restrictions on trade with Iran. These are heedful issues and must be obliged with.
In an era of geo-economics, Balochistan is indispensable for regional development and serenity. The government too has been actively pursuing developmental projects and is eager to see disparity come to an end. Thus, it is mandatory that social mobility sets in the backward areas, and the locals are aptly provided with power and privileges to recast their lives in a changing world around them. There is no point in keeping the locals out, and still expect trans-regionalism to flourish. Most of the demands pertain to trade, communication and logistical affairs, as they are linked with checkposts, opening up of international frontiers with Afghanistan and Iran, as well as tapping the expansive seaside for economic ventures. Let the Baloch be on their own and reap the fruits of the ensuing change.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 1st, 2021.