The Pakistani government tried to ease tensions related to one of China’s “One Belt, One Road” investment projects in the country, and reached an agreement with protesters who have been demonstrating in the port city of Gwadar for several weeks.
In the past month, fishermen and other residents in Gwadar, in the southwestern Balochistan province, protested in frustration because the promise of prosperity for the port and other projects built by China has not been fulfilled.
Locals complain that trawlers have encroached on their waters. China Infrastructure Investment Basic services such as education and drinking water supply are neglected.
The strong opposition attracted the attention of Prime Minister Imran Khan, who wrote last week that he “heed the very reasonable request of Gwadar’s hardworking fishermen” and would ban illegal fishing. Pakistan and China are investing approximately US$500 million in the port.
The government said on Thursday that it will ban external trawler fishing to protect local fishing rights, and speed up projects to improve access to clean drinking water and provide other public services to local residents in a bid to end the protests. .
Peaceful demonstration exposed Constant tension China’s large-scale projects in highly sensitive areas of Pakistan. Balochistan is the birthplace of a long-term separatist rebellion. They believe that the region is one of the poorest areas in the country and is being developed by the state for natural gas and mineral resources.
The problems in the region have also exposed the difficulties faced by Chinese President Xi Jinping in implementing the “Belt and Road” initiative. Ambitious $1 trillion project Aims to build bridges, ports and roads through some of the poorest countries in the world.
“The dissatisfaction of the local residents has a long history. The local people have no job opportunities, drinking water is a problem, and safety is also a problem,” said Ayaz Amir, a former member of the Pakistani parliament.
Chinese citizens and projects have become targets in Balochistan and other parts of Pakistan, most recently July attack 13 people were killed in neighboring provinces, including 9 Chinese.
“The Chinese have been watching [Gwadar] Also with great interest and caution. If the Pakistani government cannot manage it, then they will reconsider this interest,” said Biral Gilani, executive director of Gallup Pakistan.
“In a sense, this is a protest acceptable to the federal government, and the federal government is fighting similar resistance in a more radical way,” he added. “They would rather express their dissatisfaction through this platform than a more combative platform.”
Gwadar is located near the border of western Pakistan with Iran and is the southernmost entrance of the US$60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is the core of Xi Jinping’s “One Belt, One Road” plan.
China plans to connect its western Xinjiang province with Gwadar and provide important strategic access to the Arabian Sea and Gulf through a network of highways and energy pipelines.
Government officials admitted that the protests exposed gaps in the planning and development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
“We have never seen similar protests in Gwadar in the past,” said Ali Shah, a prominent TV reporter in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan. The protest is “a lesson that must be remembered, and the demands of the people should be met before this happens again.”