Rome: While Prime Minister Imran Khan-led government “plans” to make Gwadar the “next Dubai” under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) initiative, he is restricting Baloch locals from accessing basic necessities by fortifying the city at the behest of China.
According to journalist Francesca Marino, the barbed wire being put up by the Pakistan government does not surround Gwadar port free zone, GIEDA (Gwadar Industrial Estate Development Authority) industrial zone and EPZA (Export Processing Zones Authority) export processing zone. It instead restricts the local population, whose livelihood depends on fishing, from accessing the sea.
“The real purpose of the barbed wire and the 15,000 Chinese soldiers deployed at the port, on which the Chinese and Pakistani flags fly, is not to ensure the safety of commercial installations but to defend Beijing’s interests and keep the Baloch out,” said Marino.
Meanwhile, Islamabad has stepped up up its security in Balochistan to protect its facilities as there is a rise in attacks on CPEC projects, the Pakistan military said earlier.
“We have raised two division-size security settlements which are dedicated to providing security to CPEC, besides that, we have increased the number of paramilitary troops’ units from one to two in the province to ensure security,” Xinhua quoted Major General Babar Iftikhar, Director General of the military’s media wing Inter-Services Public Relations, as saying.
The security for the CPEC has been increased directly and indirectly by providing more security to CPEC projects and enhancing security in the whole province to ensure smooth work at CPEC projects after recent attacks on the facility, reported Xinhua.
Though Balochistan is the largest province of Pakistan with ample natural resources, it remains the poorest and least populous. The Balochs have often raised the issue of under-development, but Pakistan has responded to it with forced abduction, torture, and harassment.
The Balochs also oppose China’s increasing involvement in the province. The CPEC has not benefited the people of Balochistan while people of other provinces enjoy the fruits of the mega project. This has led to widespread protests as the Chinese are viewed as encroachers who are squeezing out all the wealth from the region.
This has resulted in a surge in the deadly attacks by Baloch separatists on CPEC facilities.
In 2015, China announced the project in Pakistan worth USD 46 billion, of which Balochistan is an integral part. It would link Pakistan’s southern Gwadar port in Balochistan on the Arabian Sea to China’s western Xinjiang region. It also includes plans to create road, rail and oil pipeline links to improve connectivity between China and the Middle East.