New Age Islam Edit Desk
February 20, 2013
The Gwador port of Pakistan has been handed over to China which will operate it on profit sharing basis. The port is expected to facilitate international trade via Pakistan and will actually become a trade hub for China, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Oman, Turkey and Bangladesh including other gulf countries. However, it also has a strategic advantage which has caused political concerns in India and the US. However, India has issued a very guarded reaction saying that the handing over of Gwador port was an internal issue of Pakistan and China.
The Pakistan media has not given much coverage to the signing off of the agreement between the two countries. And those who covered it presented only the brighter side of the project. The media only highlighted the benefits Pakistan will gain from the port but did not give much coverage to the apprehensions and complaints of the people of Balochistan in which the port is located.
At present, Balochistan is besieged with various problems. One is the problem of sectarian terrorism. The other is of Baloch nationalism which has been existing since the birth of Pakistan. The people of this tribal region have not reconciled to the fact that they have been subjugated to the state of Pakistan and assert their own identity—Baloch identity. This problem of Baloch identity has been made worse due to exploitation and suppression of the Baloch population at the hands of the Pakistan government. Balochistan is an underdeveloped region and the fruits of Pakistan’s development have not reached to the population of Balochistan.
The people of Balochistan say that Balochistan is the seat of mineral wealth in the country. Iron, gypsum, natural gas, oil and other mineral resources are abundant in the region but the state does not get anything from it. All the benefit goes to other states of Pakistan.
Gwador Port is a very ambitious project of Pakistan so much so that the five rupee note of Pakistan has its picture on it. Therefore, this port is a symbol of Pakistan’s economic development. Though the project was envisioned in the initial years of Pakistan, it could not be fulfilled due to various financial and political reasons. One major reason was the opposition of the US as the project was handed over to a company of Singapore. Later the Pakistan government handed over the project to China as the Singaporean company could not take the project further. China provided $220 USD to Pakistan for the project and completed the project speedily. The Secretary General of People’s Party, Jahangir Badar said that under China, the port would provide lakhs of employments to the people of the region and will contribute to the economic development of Pakistan.
However, though the national leaders and the president of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari termed the handing over of the port to China as a major move towards development, the Baloch leaders expressed their sheer disappointment at the development. Baloch nationalist leader Sardar Ataullah Mengal said that the handing over of the Gwador Port to China was the last nail in the coffin of the Balochs.
This sense of fear among the Baloch people and the differences in perception of the federal government and Balochistan began as far back as in 1948 when the project was envisaged. And it led to confrontation between the government and the Baloch nationalists. It led to violent suppression and oppression of Baloch nationalism by the Pakistani government. Many Baloch leaders were arrested and put behind bars; many were framed in terror cases and hundreds including Akbar Ali Bugti were killed by the security forces. Prominet leaders who were kidnapped include Ghulam Mohammad Baluch, Munir Mengal and Hasan Sangat Marri. Nawabzada Balaach Marry Bugti and Delra Alam Khan Dr Allah Nazr and other thousands of Baluch defenders have withdrawn to the mountains. Akhtar Jan Mengal, Abdul Nabi Bangloi, Alam Parkani, Aslam Garganadi, Lala Munir, Jaanzeb, Rafiq Khosa including hundreds of Baluchis are being subjected to tortures in government jails.
Earlier, the Balochs had reservations about Reko Diq projects as they said that out of the project, China was entitled to 80% of the revenues, the central government to 19% and Balochistan was only entitled to one per cent of the revenues. Reko Diq is famous because of its vast Gold and Copper Reserves and it is believed to be the world’s 5th largest gold mine. This strep-motherly treatment of Balochistan by Pakistan also created same apprehension of exploitation and deprivation about Gwador project. They felt that with these projects, they will not benefit financially or economically as the lion’s share would go out of the state and the jobs will also be provided to the professionals from other states and their own educated class will remain as jobless as ever. They say that Baloch people are only provided jobs of peon and sentries in these projects and the engineers and other professional are hired from outside.
Good quality green marble is also extracted from Wadh and Naal while the world's largest oil reservoir is located in Koblu which has been given in contract to the international companies despite opposition. Murri tribes who are the original inhabitants of this region are not happy with the present method of extracting oil and are being subjected to oppression. They also say that the mineral wealth of this region is looted as the high quality Gypsum from here is sold at Rs 6 per kilo in Lahore.
A Baloch leader said “Cooking gas is available in every corner of the rest of Pakistan while gas is actually produced in Baluchistan. It doesn’t even exist in Koso, Ziyarat, Qalat and other districts. When the nationalist political parties of Baluchistan demand their rights, severe actions are taken against them and their activists are sent to jail. Four thousand Baluchis are languishing in jails on false charges of terrorism. Hundreds are missing.”
The Balochs also fear that gradually the oil and mineral rich Balochistan will be turned into a colony by the Pakistan government by bringing and rehabilitating one crore people from other parts of the country to Balochistan in the name of mega projects and development. As a result, they feel, the 65 lakh strong Baluch population will automatically become a minority and the land will go out of their hand.
In short, the Pakistan government has not been able to allay the fears and apprehensions of the Baloch people by chalking out concrete steps for the assimilation of the Baloch people in the stream of development that the new projects in the region seem to promise. On the contrary, they have been subjected to kidnappings, target killings, toruture, incarceration, murders and massacres to suppress their opposition.
It is unfortunate that while covering the news of the agreement of the handover of the port, the national media of Pakistan mysteriously blacked out on the feelings and reactions of the Baloch people. Some journalism this!