On this 15 November thousands of people walked from Gwadar’s Syed Hashumi Chowk to Gwadar Y-Chowk near Gwadar port. Here the “Gwadar Haq Do Tehreek” has started a peaceful protest sit-in. Hundreds of citizens are participating a sit-in, until their demands are met.
The authorities suspended mobile internet approximately for 24 hours. According to Maulana Hidayat-ur-Rehman, the leader of this moment, the reason behind suspending mobile internet was to dent the courage of this peaceful protest for basic rights. He says, “It is proved that we are on the right and the government wants to keep the people away from truth. Because they are telling a lie to the nation since two decades. They portray Gwadar as if it were like Dubai and Singapore but we don’t have drinking water,” the Maulana says. He adds that the banning of mobile internet by authorities had the opposite effect from what was desired: it merely brought more people to the protest.
This peaceful protest sit-in of the “Gwadar Haq Do Tehreek” has been started from November 15 for an indefinite period. On Monday morning, thousands of people marched from Gwadar’s Syed Hashumi Chowk to the Gwadar Port, while caravans from different parts of the district Gwadar, including Makran, joined the sit-in. In addition, Civil Society Kech Turbat and All Parties Kech also participated in the sit-in.
Maulana Hidayat-ur-Rehman Baloch, head of the Haq Do Tehreek in Gwadar, has announced a continuation of the sit-in until their demands are approved. Addressing the sit-in participants, he demanded to impose a complete ban on illegal trawlers fishing in the sea off Gwadar. Further demands were:
“The missing persons should be released, restrictions on Pakistan-Iran border trade should be lifted and all unnecessary check posts in the name of security should be abolished.”
The Maulana says that he had presented his charter of demands to the federal and provincial government, and had given one month to the government for considering it. But later, due to a change in the Balochistan government, they waited for 15 more days and postponed their protests. “But the government is not serious,” he says.0
Leaders of All Parties Kech and Civil Society also address the Gwadar sit-in. In his speech, Comrade Gulzar Dost, Head of Civil Society Kech, strongly criticises the policies of the government. He says, “The residents living near the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor are thirsty today. They are banned from going to the open seas. They are fighting for their basic rights.” He then poses the question:
“Is this developing Gwadar?”
The protesters’ charter of demands consists of the following:
1. The sea should be cleansed of the “trawlers mafia,” patronage of this mafia should be stopped, strict legislation should be enacted against them, and the Fisheries Ordinance 1986 should be implemented.
2. Fishermen should be allowed to go to sea freely. Humiliation of fishermen in the name of entry tokens and VIPs should be stopped.
3. The humiliation of the people should be stopped in the name of security. This means an elimination of unnecessary checkpoints. Moreover, unnecessary check posts on the Coastal Highway from Jiwani to Karachi and on the highway from Gwadar to Quetta should be abolished.
4. All liquor stores in Gwadar should be banned completely. Other drugs should be eliminated.
5. Immediate lifting of restrictions on border trade and transportation of food items from Iran, provision of a free border trade environment for Makran Division, elimination of token system and elimination of paramilitary FC interference.
6. A complete university should be established in Gwadar, and a University Vice Chancellor should be appointed immediately.
7. Orders for the posts of non-teaching staff of the Department of Education should be made immediately.
8. The trade of counterfeit drugs should be banned in Gwadar district and action should be taken against the dealers.
9. District Gwadar should be declared a disaster area and the arrears of utility bills of the citizens should be forgiven. Local consumers of Gwadar district should be given a subsidy of 300 residential units per month.
10. The vehicles, boats and speedboats seized by the Coast Guard, Customs and MS from Jiwani to Hormara should be returned immediately.
11. The water crisis in Darbila, Chib Rekani, Nogdu, Palleri, Pishukan, Suntsar and Jiwani areas should be addressed on an emergency basis.
12. In the China Overseas Holding Company, people from Gwadar and other parts of Balochistan are given less salary and benefits than those from outside. Local people should be given priority.
13. The district administration should abide by the agreement made with the Darbila Victims Committee.
14. Expressway victims should be given adequate compensation: as for victims whose names are not registered or a transparent survey has not been done, their names should be registered immediately and they should be compensated.
15. Damage to Gwadar fishermen from hurricanes, boats and trawlers etc. should be compensated.
16. The forcibly disappeared persons should be recovered. Qasim son of Hashim, a resident of Gwadar, should be recovered especially and immediately.
17. Cases against Hidayat-ur-Rehman, the head of Haq Do Tehreek, and the three cases against youth of the movement should be withdrawn and the letter of the Fourth Schedule should also be withdrawn.
Last night, the Deputy Commissioner Gwadar gave an interview to a local channel. According to the DC, 11 of the Maulana’s demands have been approved by the administration. “Action is being taken against illegal trawlers at sea and trawlers within 12 nautical miles,” the Deputy Commissioner Gwadar stated. He stated that the Fisheries Department had detained several trawlers. Other agencies including Fisheries are taking action on the report of the trawlers.
About the token system, the DC said that the token system for sea fishing has been abolished and now no fisherman has to get tokens.
He added: “The wine stores have been sealed, which was a major demand of Maulana.”
About Pakistan-Iran boarder trade and other demands, he said, “The token system for diesel boats has also been abolished. New cards are being issued for diesel traders. Cards are essential for business identity and security. Gwadar University has been established. And Orders for non-teaching staff will be issued soon by the district administration.”
For his part, the Maulana is still not satisfied. He says the promise of “action will be taken” is not acceptable. “I have been listening to this phrase since my childhood. Now, nothing less than the word ‘done’ is acceptable to us.”
Commenting on the suspension of mobile internet, journalist Noor Mohsin thinks that this act of the Government is really shameful. He says, “This is the 21st century and voices can not be stifled like this anymore. So this act of banning internet services is to be condemned.”