ISLAMABAD: As the native residents of Gwadar are still concerned about demographic changes in the wake of fast development on China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) related projects, Balochistan government plans to propose a number of measures to address their grievances.
“One of the major concerns of residents in Gwadar is about the loss of as much as 70 per cent of land that has now gone into foreign hands. Moreover, they are concerned as they are fast becoming a minority in their own land due to the influx of outsiders following the gaining momentum at Gwadar seaport,” said an official at Gwadar Development Authority (GDA).
In order to remove the sense of deprivation, the government of Balochistan is taking a number of steps which include educating locals and providing robust training to the illiterate population, he reiterated.
“After numerous meetings and deliberation with the residents and high officials, the government has finally drafted a proposal to be presented in Balochistan and National Assembly to refuse provision of domicile and voting rights to outsiders,” the official informed Pakistan Today during a recent visit to the area adding that this way the locals would be able to preserve their identity on political front.
He said that this proposal is highly unlikely to be accepted by the locals as they are reluctant to leave their homes. “We fear that if the locals refuse the government’s proposal they might end up living in slums amid a developed Gwadar.” He added, as part of the proposal all who agree to make the move will be provided with constructed homes and facilities in exchange for their land at the port area.
“We have assured that the business of local people will not be harmed and in fact, they will be facilitated with opportunities to boost their business,” the official said. In reply to a query, he said, under the constitution of Pakistan, a special royalty or compensation system is not possible to be offered to the natives however, we will fully compensate the locals in form of rent from land or similar arrangements.
“Moreover in order to preserve the rights and allocate more share of the development and business activity for the locals, the people of Gwadar are being offered alternative land in nearby areas along with monthly or annual rent for land that will be used for business/commercial activities at the port,” he said.
Talking to Pakistan Today, a fish exporter and native resident of Gwadar, on the basis anonymity, said that an overwhelming majority of locals, who have been offered plots in housing societies nearby have opted to sell their land at extremely low prices. Moreover, the majority that is holding onto their homes have no alternative land to offer as they have already sold it. They fear that they might not have anywhere else to go.
He said while clarifying misconceptions about natives, “The impression that people of Gwadar are uneducated is not true since various highly qualified people of the area are either living in other provinces and cities or live abroad. They may come back to Gwadar if the city is provided all the required facilities or once CPEC is fully developed,” he added.
Both Pakistan and the Chinese government should support the residents of Gwadar to improve and boost fishing in the area, he added.
Talking about concerns of the locals related to CPEC, he argued the local Baloch community in Gwadar would be politically marginalised in case the outsiders are given voting right. “Non-locals have bought huge swaths of land in Gwadar and it indicates that after 10 years, the Baloch will be reduced to a minority given the increasing influx of outsiders to the area,” he argued.
Talking about how they feel about the development activities in the area, a local fisherman said: “This is all being done for China, not the locals.”
However, it seems the government and NGOs, as observed in the area, are actively trying to give more benefits of development activities to the locals. A representative of Pak-China Technical and Vocational Institute Gwadar, a Public Private Partnership (PPP) project between Gwadar Port Authority and Karachi-based Y-30 Technologies ACES Private Ltd, said his institute was set up in the old premises of the Government Degree College Gwadar on October 29, 2017. The institution was offering eight different short duration courses to the local youth. In phase-1 the locals were being taught skills such as Chinese and English language, woodwork, dress designing and information technology while being trained to become electricians, mechanics and beauticians along with other courses. He added that this would help youngsters contribute towards projects being established under CPEC and earn a respectable living.