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Baloch activist condemns Gwadar fencing project, cites CPEC as cause of encirclement

Baloch Activist, Mahrang Baloch (Photo: @BalochYakjehtiC)

Mahrang Baloch, a Balochistan-based activist, said on Saturday that the fence around Gwadar was not merely physical but had been metaphorically erected ever since the initiation of mega projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

She was speaking at a conference organized by the Baloch Yakjehti Committee (BYC) at the Quetta Press Club to denounce the Gwadar Fencing Project, with activists decrying it as the construction of a “mega prison.”

The event, attended by many activists, intellectuals, scholars, lawyers, and social and political activists, shed light on Balochistan’s ongoing struggle against the encroachment of the Gwadar region.

While speaking at the conference, Mahrang Baloch claimed that Balochistan had effectively been declared a military zone, with the benefits of development disproportionately flowing to Punjab province while Balochistan faced devastation and neglect.

“There is a fence that we can physically see and feel around, but I believe that Gwadar has been fenced since the approval of mega projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, because of which Balochistan has quite literally been declared a military zone,” she said.

“The fence of separation was always encircling Gwadar because of CPEC, because all the developmental projects went to the Punjab province in Pakistan, and we got floods, devastation, atrocities, and destruction. The people of Balochistan were not able to raise their voices for their rights even when they were struggling for their lives in the recent floods,” she added.

Highlighting the destructive impact of CPEC on Gwadar, Baloch emphasized the pervasive fear among locals, contrasting it with the prosperity that major projects typically bring to communities in other countries. She lamented the continuous state terrorism faced by Balochistan’s residents, citing a recent spate of abductions in urban areas of Gwadar.

“The so-called help that was given during that time was useless for us, as the generators were given to us for pumping water, but we could not demand the oil that was needed to run them. It is quite brave of the people of Gwadar, who have taken an oath to never leave their mother land despite facing the state atrocities head-on. It is shameful that Pakistan has deployed two lakh defense personnel to control around one lakh people in Gwadar. And all these so-called protectors were sitting safely in their homes when our city was drowning in floods,” she said.

Moreover, Baloch criticized the lack of transparency surrounding the development narrative in Gwadar, asserting that journalists attempting to report on the situation were either obstructed or granted limited access. She dismissed iconic photographs of development in the region as mere publicity stunts, arguing that they did not reflect the harsh realities faced by Balochistan’s inhabitants.

“I have seen the fear in the locals over the CPEC projects, generally, in other countries, major projects like these bring growth and prosperity for the locals. But here, the people of Balochistan live in continuous fear, because of the negative impacts of the CPEC projects. Any individual belonging to any part of society is not leading a normal life anymore. We have been facing state terrorism because of the administration, because within a week, around 25 Baloch individuals have been abducted from urban areas of Gwadar,” she said.

“The famous and iconic photographs that we have seen are just for publicity. Because not just the general public, but if journalists also desire to visit and report about the Gwadar area, they are shunned or very carefully or watchfully given permission to watch the so-called development in Gwadar,” she added.

The conference concluded with a call to the Pakistani administration to halt the Gwadar Fencing Project and address the grievances of Balochistan’s people, emphasising the need for inclusive development and respect for human rights.

The BYC’s condemnation of the Gwadar Fencing Project underscores the ongoing tensions surrounding CPEC and its implications for the marginalized communities of Balochistan, raising pertinent questions about development, security, and autonomy in the region.