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No economic benefits for locals from Pakistan’s Gwadar port: Report

By: FirstIndia

Beijing: The China funded Gwadar port in Pakistan promised an economic revolution but it has turned out to be a segregated harbour settlement, whose economic benefits are not enjoyed by the local population, The China Project, a New-York based news website reported.
While Gwadar Port has been in development with Chinese funding for more than seven years, residents of the area don’t see any benefits to their own lives or improvements in basic infrastructure outside of the fenced-off port. A social activist in Gwadar Nasir Rahim Suhrabi said, “This generation of youth in Gwadar grew up over the past 20 years with a dream that Chinese money would transform Gwadar into a new Dubai or Singapore, but what they see today is enough to shatter their hope.”
Suhrabi further added that the whole city is in a security zone where the locals are facing restrictions and security checks to move across the port city. The mini fish harbour has become a part of Gwadar Port, where local fishermen no longer enjoy free access to the harbour since they have to pass through security protocols.
Koh-i-Batil, a hilly area just south of Gwadar Port, used to draw crowds for its sea views. “It used to be a place for entertainment for local visitors before construction began. Now they cannot enter the area without passing through various security checkpoints,” he said.
Political activists also claim that the way that the port city is being developed puts locals at a disadvantage, according to The China Project.
Another social activist in Gwadar, Kalsoom Baloch said that the problems had worsened with the development of the port. She further said that the locals are “anxious.”
While building the port, the initial plan was to relocate the locals but the chairman of Gwadar Port Authority (GPA) until September of this year said that they are not shifting them. Talking about locals’ fears about “becoming a minority”, Naseer Khan Kashani said that these are “merely apprehension” due to an influx of foreigners. “This is not true,” The China Project quoted Kashani as saying.
“If we just look at the arrival of non-locals and Chinese in Gwadar over the past five years, it nominally increased the Gwadar population, which is estimated at 150,000. Locals are still a majority.” He also said that they are working to give a better infrastructure to the area.
However, local analysts weren’t convinced that their reservations about China-funded development are unfounded.
“Why were the people of Gwadar not consulted when Pakistani authorities planned the development of the port? This shows that decision makers in Islamabad have no interest in addressing the legitimate concerns of local people,” Jan Muhammed Baloch, a political analyst, told The China Project.
The Chinese government hyped the project as being “inspired by…Chinese city Shenzhen,” but the reality seems to be far from what is being echoed in the country.
Meanwhile, the development of the port has also ignited anger from the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), a local separatist group labelled as a terrorist organization by Pakistani authorities, which resents China’s growing economic footprint in the region, The China Project reported.
An increasing number of attacks on Chinese nationals — including a failed suicide bombing in May — have driven Islamabad to ramp up security in the region, frustrating local residents.
The Gwadar residents with whom The China Project spoke about the port development are not militants. But if their concerns continue to be ignored in Beijing and in Islamabad, Gwadar is unlikely to have a peaceful or prosperous future. (ANI)


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