The rights movement in Balochistan has flared up in the entire Makran coastal belt of Pakistan (Photo: Google Maps)
Baloch protests against the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) are spreading to Makran and nearby areas from the port city of Gwadar. Various civil society organisations have been leading the protests against Islamabad and Beijing's policies towards the Baloch people in Gwadar.
Makran, Kech and Panjgoor areas called for a shutter-down protest in solidarity with the Gwadar protestors who are leading the 'Gwadar Ko Haq Do' movement. The protestors in Gwadar, Turbat, Pishkan, Zamran, Buleda, Ormara and Pasni regions of Balochistan have blocked national highways and have observed a continuous sit-in for the last ten days.
Now the protests have spread further, says The Balochistan Post.
— Bashir Chaudhary (@Bashirchaudhry) November 25, 2021
The Makran coastline is important as it runs from Iran to Pakistan, linking up important ports like Bandar Abbas and Chabahar, both in Iran, to the Pakistani coastal cities of Gwadar and Karachi.
Pakistani newspaper Dawn says, the protestors have served an ultimatum of blocking CPEC projects unless their demands are met. The large-scale Chinese presence and Pakistani troop deployment related to the CPEC has taken away the traditional livelihoods of the Baloch people.
Though the protests have carried on for a large part this year, Maulana Hidayat-ur-Rehman, General Secretary of the Jamaat-e-Islami Balochistan, has catalysed the protests by serving a three-day ultimatum to the government.
Geopolitical analyst Mark Kinra told India Narrative that the agitation has had impact on Islamabad. Kinra says: "Out of various demands raised by Maulana Baloch, four have been met. These include movement of trade across borders with due approval, releasing seized boats of fisherman, banning illegal trawlers up to 12 nautical miles of Gwadar Sea and the closure of liquor shops".
He adds that the movement has raised hopes among people in Gwadar and in parts of Balochistan that they will gain some basic human rights despite a deep-rooted feeling of being a colony of both Pakistan and China.
The local people wanted free movement in Gwadar by removing checkpoints as they felt harassed by Pakistani troops. The checkpoints have been necessitated by Chinese security concerns.
Karachi: Students today walked in protest against abduction of Baloch students Sohail and Faseeh Baloch from Balochistan University.
Student groups have continued their protests since the abduction of student activists in early November. pic.twitter.com/neD6KpJj6T
— The Balochistan Post – English (@TBPEnglish) November 23, 2021
Other demands included banning trawling in the Arabian Sea after Chinese fishing trawlers almost emptied the sea of its marine life. Also, Chinese concerns for the Gwadar port denied access to the Baloch fishermen.
The locals also want water and power problems to be resolved, paucity of which has created famine-like conditions in the province. They also want the reopening of the Iranian border—a major commercial and trading centre for them.
Dissatisfaction with Islamabad runs across the large resource-rich province of Balochistan, which makes up almost 40 per cent of Pakistan.
Separately, students of the Balochistan University have been on a strike in provincial capital Quetta for almost the entire month after two students were kidnapped early November. The undeterred protest by the Baloch students has put the spotlight on Pakistan's infamous practice of 'kidnappings and enforced disappearances' by the military and intelligence network.
A research on Baloch youth by a Pakistani civil society organisation, Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), found that the Baloch youth feel alienated and deprived from the mainstream Pakistani society. This is a feeling that has gathered pace in the entire province, particularly after the arrival of Chinese workers and engineers for the CPEC projects.
The unrest against Pakistan has fanned across Balochistan and threatens CPEC progress. The stir undermines Imran Khan's assurances to Beijing that CPEC projects will be given priority. On ground, communities are opposing the CPEC as they perceive it to be exploitative. People also oppose the massive Pakistani troop deployment that comes with Chinese projects.