Gwadar protests: Pakistan PM Imran Khan promises 'strong action' against illegal fishing trawlers

Karachi, PakistanUpdated: Dec 12, 2021, 11:38 PM IST
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File photo of Pakistan PM Imran Khan. Photograph:(AFP)

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Meanwhile, Adviser to the Balochistan Chief Minister on Home and Tribal Affairs Mir Ziaullah Lagau said that the protesters had a list of 19 demands, 16 of which had been accepted by the government

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Sunday that he will take "strong action" against illegal fishing by trawlers off the Gwadar coast, after weeks-long sit-in and protest by local residents rattled the government and forced authorities to deploy thousands of additional police officers in the region.

Hundreds of local residents, civil society activists, lawyers, journalists including women have been holding massive protests and a sit-in Gwadar for the last 28 days against unnecessary checkpoints, a severe shortage of water and electricity and threats to livelihoods from illegal fishing.

"I have taken notice of the very legitimate demands of the hardworking fishermen of Gwadar. Will be taking strong action against illegal fishing by trawlers & will also speak to CM Balochistan," Khan tweeted.

Maulana Hidayat-ur-Rehman, Balochistan general secretary of Jamaat-i-Islami party, who has led the protests, welcomed the premier's tweet.

Rehman, who is leading the Gwadar Ko Huqooq Do Tehreek (Give Rights to Gwadar Movement), said their two major demands were - action against "trawler mafia" and resolution of issues on the Iran border - from overall 19 demands.

Meanwhile, Adviser to the Balochistan Chief Minister on Home and Tribal Affairs Mir Ziaullah Lagau said that the protesters had a list of 19 demands, 16 of which had been accepted by the government.

"The demands accepted include illegal trawlers fishing in Gwadar port, patrolling increased to check on illegal trawlers, Freedom for local fishermen to go to sea, elimination of unnecessary checkposts on major roads, closure of wine shops in Gwadar and elimination of interference in cross-border trade with Iran and end to all kinds of interference and establishment of trade markets at border," he told reporters.

The protests in Balochistan are part of growing discontent with China's presence in Gwadar, whose port is an integral part of the USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project (CPEC), the flagship project of China's multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The massive infrastructure project connects China's Xinjiang province with Gwadar port in Pakistan's Balochistan province.

Gwadar port has long been portrayed as the jewel in the CPEC crown, but in the process, the city has become the very embodiment of a security state.

India has protested to China over the CPEC as it traverses through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Protestors from Gwadar, Turbat, Pishkan, Zamran, Buleda, Ormara and Pasni are taking part in the 'Gwadar Ko Huqooq Do Tehreek' (Give Rights to Gwadar Movement) led by Maulana Rehman.

They have vowed to continue their protest till their demands are met and earlier this week even the womenfolk took out a big rally in Gwadar and Pasni.

The protesters have put forth 19 demands, which include steps to rid the sea of the "trawler mafia" and allowing fishermen to freely go into the waters, getting rid of unnecessary check posts and to not "insult" citizens in the name of security.

They also demanded that all wine stores in Gwadar be shut down, and to allow border trade with Iran.
Balochistan is home to a long-running violent insurgency, and China's presence in Gwadar has been the cause of much social unrest and led to anti-Chinese sentiment. It has also given a fillip to Baloch militant insurgent groups, who have carried out terrorist attacks in protest at CPEC projects.

The demands also state that a majority of the people employed by the China Overseas Port Holding Company were from outside of Gwadar and called for giving priority to locals.