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Are the Islamists led by Jamaat-e-Islami set to hijack the Gwadar agitation in Pakistan?

Sirajul Haq, chief of Jamaat-e-Islami, has given a new impetus to the Gwadar rights movement (Photo: @Zarathustrablch/Twitter)

The 'give rights to Gwadar' movement appeared to morph towards greater radicalisation on Monday with the visit of Sirajul Haq, chief of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI). He visited the restive port city of Gwadar to support the 'Gwadar ko haq do' movement which is now 22 days old.

Haq's visit to Gwadar does not bode well for the Imran Khan government as the JI leader has warned of turning the stir into a nationwide movement. Haq told the protestors that the demands raised by the people are just and the government should accept the demands.

Geopolitical analyst Mark Kinra, who has been following the developments closely in Gwadar, told India Narrative: "The visit by Ameer Siraj-ul-Haq is extremely significant as the movement seems to be transcending from a local movement in a region to a party-led national movement. The same has been indicated by Haq as well when he vowed to take it up to the national level".

In an article, Pakistani newspaper The News quoted Haq as saying: “I like to warn the government that if it does not solve the problems of Gwadar, the protest for expressing solidarity with the people of Gwadar will not be limited to Gwadar and spread all over the country". He added that Maulana Hidayat-ur-Rehman, a native Baloch, is leading a peaceful movement with the support of women and children.

Kinra points out that with the top leader of the JI joining the movement, the Baloch agitation has taken a twist. The JI, which has a completely Islamic agenda for Pakistan, may impact the Baloch freedom movement against Islamabad in days to come. Many Baloch nationals have similar apprehensions. 

"Haq has in his speech tried to corner Balochistan political parties and influential people including the Sardars and Chief of Tribes who have been ruling over the Baloch for centuries", observes Kinra.

In another significant development in the region, the government seems to be buckling under pressure from the protestors, who are attracting support from other parts of the country.

The local government seems to be relenting to the charter of demands issued by the Gwadar protestors. Pakistani newspaper Dawn says that the provincial government of Balochistan has imposed an immediate ban on illegal fishing by trawlers from foreign countries, mainly China, and other provinces in coastal areas of Balochistan.

In a signal to the protestors, the government has also shifted the headquarters of the fisheries department from capital Quetta to Gwadar so that it can monitor and curb illegal fishing, as was demanded by the local fishermen.

The government has also abolished the token system imposed on the local fishermen. Now the local fishermen can fish in the sea without having to obtain a token.

However, there are issues where the Balochistan government's hands are tied to a significant extent. These are opening up the border with Iran and eliminating security check-posts, which lie with Islamabad and with the powerful Pakistani military.

Kinra observes: "Only demands which require deliberation at the federal government or the army level remain. One such demand is the recovery of forcibly disappeared persons, which is a huge problem in Balochistan as it is done under the protection of the army. Till now no civil society, provincial federal government has been able to negotiate with the Pakistani army on behalf of missing persons".

He adds that it is difficult to contemplate how this demand of JI can be fulfilled because according to the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons, more than 45,000 people have been forcibly disappeared by the Pakistan Army.

The Baloch movement which had been built against the Pakistani government and against economic exploitation by China has suddenly got new leaders. With the Ameer's visit, the 'Give rights to Gwadar' movement has leapfrogged into national limelight and has taken a turn for the unknown.