Month-long protests in Gwadar came to an end as the government agreed to the genuine demands of the locals, especially the fishermen. Most of the demands pertained to basic civic amenities, and the right to enjoy unhindered access to sea catch. The fact that the residents of Gwadar maintained their cool, and similar agitations too in other desolate areas of the province were composed, is a tribute to the Baloch resilience. It illustrated the fact that they have been wronged at the hands of a callous officialdom and likewise pathetic politicians. What has lagged in Balochistan for decades is patronage, which has inadvertently pushed its populace to adopt a repulsive attitude to the hollow promises of respective governments.
The fact that Prime Minister Imran Khan unequivocally nodded in affirmative to the demands of the Gwadar-ites is encouraging. The move furthered the envelope of reconciliation in one of the most backward provinces of Pakistan. Yet, it took him 28 long days to respond is an enigma of our national life. The Gwadar rallies brought to the fore several harsh realities, and foremost of them is that major chunks of populations countrywide are denied basic daily necessities to this day, and the so-called budget allocations end up mysteriously elsewhere. This fact was acknowledged by a federal minister too, who tweeted that funds disbursed under the PSDP were embezzled. It is, indeed, an indictment against those who hold the purse of the province.
One hopes the agreement with the locals will hold, and apart from keeping away illegal fishing trawlers, the people of the area will soon have recourse to a civilised infrastructure. That squarely pertains to education, vocational training, healthcare, water and sanitation. Though Gwadar is the theatre of CPEC, the disparity in development to this day is quite unfortunate. It’s high time the locals of the province got preferential treatment in jobs and development. No point in building an oasis of false hopes. The promissory note that the locals will be ensured fair access to Kamyab Jawan Programme, and all efforts will be made to undo inequality should see the light of the day.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 18th, 2021.