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Watch: Uneasy calm in Gwadar as Baloch leader remanded to police custody

Gwadar protest leader Maulana Hidayat-Ur-Rehman of the Haq Do Tehreek (Photo: Twitter)

The Gwadar Haq Do Tehreek (Give rights to Gwadar) leader Maulana Hidayat Ur Rehman was sent to three-day remand by an anti-terrorism court in Quetta on Monday. He had been arrested earlier in January for inciting violence leading to the death of a policeman in the port city of Gwadar, being built by China.

The maulana had been leading a two-month mass protest over basic rights for the residents of Gwadar and also for the people of Balochistan. The Baloch live under heavy repression by the Pakistani government which discriminates against the local people on the basis of their ethnic identity.

The Haq Do Tehreek movement had blocked roads leading to the Gwadar port being built by the Chinese under Beijing’s ambitious global project the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The demands by the people included access to the sea for fishing which has been hindered by the Chinese; the banning of deep-sea trawling vessels; opening up the border with Iran for trade; putting a stop to liquor and drug smuggling which is harming Baloch youth as well as providing proper basic facilities like water and power to the local people.

Pakistani forces cracked down on the movement, leading to violence in which a policeman was shot dead. Section 144 was clamped so that people do not reconvene for the protest and all kinds of mobile and internet communications were stopped.

Though peace has returned to the city, the local people are simmering with discontent as their issues have not been addressed by the government.

The Baloch rebels–the Balochistan Liberation Front as well as the Balochistan Liberation Army–have meanwhile stepped up their attacks on the Pakistani military which they call “occupying forces”.

In their latest press statement on Monday, the Balochistan Liberation Army said that it had given the death sentence to two Pakistani agents – Wali, son of Ghazi Khan Marri and Gulab Shah son of Saleem Shah, for spying.

Last week, the BLF had claimed that in one of its biggest attacks in recent days it killed nine Pakistani soldiers near the Iran border. The incident created a diplomatic kerfuffle between the foreign ministries of both countries. The BLF also said that it had attacked a train bringing troops to Balochistan.

Due to the crumbling situation in Pakistan–financial crisis, food shortage, power blackouts, mounting insurgency from the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP), and rising attacks from Baloch nationalists–work on the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has come to a standstill.

The situation in Balochistan remains bleak for the local people.

Baloch students are being abducted by Pakistani agencies, women are being assaulted as they participate in rallies asking for the return of their abducted loved ones and the Pakistani military is pressing helicopter gunships and drones in a seven-decade war-like situation that has become an every-day affair in Balochistan.

Also read: Watch: Protests surge in Balochistan as wheat flour runs out