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State’s broken promises

Taking notice of a situation, promising to fulfil demands of protesting citizens and then dilly-dallying have become governments’ modus operandi in Pakistan during a crisis situation. To the disappointment of scores of residents of Gwadar, we are once again witnessing the same development by the provincial government. On December 16, Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Quddus Bizenjo held negotiations with Maulana Hidayat-ur-Rehman, the leader of Gwadar Rights Movement, following almost a month-long sit-in staged by thousands of people who were demanding for their fundamental rights. The agreement between the two had the protest called off only for it to be staged again on Thursday – over a month after the aggrieved demonstrators waited for the Balochistan government to implement the agreement in letter and spirit.

The agreement included: banning of illegal trawlers in territorial waters, border trade supervision to be handed over to district administration, compensation to victims of the Expressway construction, formation of committee on the elimination of unnecessary check-posts in Makran and dropping of cases against the movement’s activists, among other things. It must be noted that the provincial government as well as Prime Minister Imran Khan had termed the demands of the movement ‘legitimate’. But despite it, no actions have been taken till date based on the written commitment signed between the government and the protesters. Something that the demonstrators themselves were anticipating because of which they had earlier refused to accept the Balochistan government’s tall claims of accepting demands and urging protestors to call off the sit-in. And once again, the ‘Gwadar ko haq do’ movement finds itself back at ‘Zero Point’ as they blocked the Ormara-Karachi Highway on Thursday, urging the government for implementation of their demands.

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People of the port city have been long demanding for their rights. They were promised progress and development in the wake of the ‘game changer’ China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects but were instead sidetracked when it came to giving them job opportunities and were deprived of basic civic amenities as well as livelihood with Chinese trawlers plying in the sea. The province has been historically neglected and the recent events only show the state’s lack of understanding the depth of dissatisfaction within the Baloch society. Islamabad’s broken promises will only stress an already delicate situation. After all, it is an anomaly for mass protests to be staged in Balochistan’s heavily securitised environment. The state must take stock of this brewing situation.

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