Protests Surface in Pakistan:
Locals along with fishermen have started protest in Pakistan’s port city Gwadar. It is against China’s multibillion dollar Belt and Road Project (BRI) in the country. The protests are part of local people’s increasing discontent with China’s presence at Gwadar. The newspapers have reported that the deadly attack on a bus carrying Chinese engineers and workers that killed nine Chinese nationals in July was a sign of Pakistani’s growing resentment against the BRI.
Background to the BRI Initiative:
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) a project adopted by CCP in 2013 and incorporated into the Constitution of China, 2017. Otherwise also referred to as the One Belt One Road (OBOR). It looks forward to infrastructural investment and development in almost 70 countries. The initiative to be completed by 2049.
“The BRI comprises a Silk Road Economic Belt – a trans-continental passage that links China with south east Asia, south Asia, Central Asia, Russia and Europe by land – and a 21st century Maritime Silk Road, a sea route connecting China’s coastal regions with south east and south Asia, the South Pacific, the Middle East and Eastern Africa, all the way to Europe.”
However the covert expanse and motive of the project is self-evident. Thus, the BRI recognized as a Neo-imperialistic approach in the classical Chinese expansionist policy. The underlying motive is to expand China’s extra territorial influence over to distant European countries. Previously as well China has had similarly invested in various South Asian countries. In the name of development it eventually led to domination of the said countries.
Gwadar Port the Site of Unrest:
There is a strong discontent among the locals of Baluchistan residing near Gwadar port. This solely because of the presence of China at the Gwadar port. Large number of fishermen are protesting in the Pakistan’s Gwadar, where China is building a port. They are protesting against the Imran Khan government for granting Chinese fishing rights in Gwadar by issuing licenses.
Gwadar is an integral part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Project (CPEC). Therein China has invested billions in infrastructure project. Under the project Pakistan surrendered Gwadar port to a Chinese based multinational corporation for a lease of 40 years.
The protesters claim that there is a severe shortage of water and electricity. Further, they even assert that their livelihood is threatened due to the activities carried out by China under the CPEC in Pakistan.
Voices of Dissent:
Two people injured when the authorities cracked down on the protesters.
A protester said that “We have been protesting and rallying against the Chinese trawlers, and shortage of water and electricity for over a month now. But the government never paid heed to our demands. We had to observe a complete shutdown strike and we were attacked by the district administration”
The protesters burned tyres chanted slogans and shutdown the city to demand water and electricity. They even demanded to stop illegal fishing by the Chinese trawlers in the nearby waters. The protests are part of growing discontent with the China’s presence in Gwadar whose port is an integral part of China Pakistan economy corridor project in which China has invested billions in infrastructure projects in Pakistan.
Resistance from Political Parties and Civil Society:
The National Party and Baloch Student Organization had called for the protest rally and sit in in front of Gwadar Press Club against the Governments move. Apart from fishermen political workers and members of civil society also participated in the protest. The participants of the rally marched on the roads of the coastal town and later staged the sit down.
The protesters said that the fishermen in the Gwadar have evacuated there fishing spots due to construction of Gwadar port. Through the project they were hoping that their economy condition would improve once the port was ready. However, now the Imran Khan government has issued licenses to Chinese trawlers which were badly affecting their livelihood.
A minister for fisheries for the Baluchistan state government alleged that the central government which has close ties with China granted Chinese vessels licenses to fish in the seas around Gwadar despite the cost to the local community.
However, this is not the first time when locals have demonstrated against Chinese trawlers. Earlier in July as well, in another protest hundreds of fishermen, political workers and members of civil society participated demanding to revoke Chinese fishing licenses. They aimed to defend the livelihood of Gwadar fishermen.
These frequent protests show the discontent of the people of Gwadar against the promises made both by Pakistani government and Chinese government before the starting of the project. The Pakistani government along with the Chinese government promised a better life for the people living around Gwadar after the completion of the project.
Now the promises seem to be vague and empty. Presently Imran Khan government has issued licenses to Chinese trawlers which were badly affecting their livelihood. Also, Chinese trawlers have started illegal fishing in Pakistan’s territorial water in Gwadar thereby taking away livelihood of the fishermen. These growing backlashes against China presence in Gwadar should be seriously taken by the Pakistan government to maintain peace in the area.
Conclusively, when the public in particular not taken into confidence and decisions concerning them are not addressed, then protests like these become inevitable. The Pakistani government might turn a deaf ear to them or violently supress the resistance movement. However, the spark of dissent lives long and can potentially cause civil wars and mass aggression against the suppressive forces. Moreover, other countries that look forward to host the Chinese projects in name of development and advancement, too must take heed of such backlash spreading there as well.