Why are people in Pakistan's Gwadar protesting against the Chinese? Here is what we know

WION Web Team
New Delhi Published: Dec 13, 2021, 07:05 PM(IST)

(Image: @TBPEnglish) People can be seen marching on the streets of Gwadar protesting the Chinese Photograph:( Twitter )

Story highlights

The protests are going on for nearly a month. Locals in Gwadar, including women, have turned up in large numbers against growing Chinese presence

Gwadar in Pakistan, where a port is being developed by China, has become the centre of a massive, resolute protest against Chinese presence in the country.

The locals and even those not from the city have gathered in Gwadar to oppose Chinese presence in Balochistan, the province where Gwadar is located.

The largely peaceful protest rallies where tens of thousands of men, women and children participated, had been going on for last 29 days.

Balochistan is resource-rich but least developed Pakistani province. The region has also seen pro-independence elements and an insurgency against the Pakistani state flourish over the years.

What are protests in Gwadar about? 

There is resentment among locals against Chinese presence. China is developing the port and is also involved in infrastructure projects. Locals have been saying for long that jobs in these vital projects are being offered to outside labour and locals are left without employment. Locals allege that they are being marginalised.

What is the 'trawler mafia?'

Another issue that has angered people in Gwadar is that of Chinese fishing trawlers.

Fishing is the main occupation for many in the port city. But the local fishermen allege that the 'trawler mafia' is looting the marine resources. The fishermen had held protests in June this year against licenses being granted to Chinese fishing vessels in sea near Gwadar.

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Local fisherfolk have already given up some of their regular fishing spots due to development work of the port. Now the unequal competition with Chinese trawlers has added to their difficulty.

People are also protesting against unnecessary checkpoints on main roads, severe shortage of water and electricity.

Who is co-ordinating the protests?

The protesters have rallied under Gwadar Ko Huqooq Do Tehreek (Rights to Gwadar movement). Interestingly, a Jamat-e-Islami leader Maulana Rehman is leading the protest. Jamat-e-Islami is seen as traditional ally of Pakistan's all-powerful military establishment.

Why is Gwadar important for China?

Gwadar forms important node in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a multibillion-dollar project that is the flaghship of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Gwadar will be connected to China's Xinjiang province through network of roads and raliroad in Pakistan. China has undertaken these projects as well.

China lacks direct access to Arabian Sea. It will be able to do so via Gwadar. Chinese goods, and even oil supplies will then be able to bypass sea lanes in Indian Ocean dominated by Indian Navy and other powers.

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

India opposes CPEC and holds it illegal as some of the projects have proposed to be implemented in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir.

What is different about Gwadar protests this time?

The first thing is how huge they are. The second difference is the diversity of participation. Women have turned up for protests as well. In conservative society of Balochistan, this is being seen as an indication that all sections of the society are angry about Chinese presence.

How has Pakistan government reacted to Gwadar protests?

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has assured 'strong action against 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," he tweeted on Sunday.

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