By Sumit Kumar Singh
New Delhi, June 30 (Indus Prism) Chinese trawlers getting fishing right licenses in Gwadar has usurped Pakistani fishermen livelihood — leading to huge demonstrations in the region and various other places, said top sources.
A large number of fishermen in Pakistan’s Gwadar demonstrated recently against the federal government for granting Chinese trawlers fishing rights in the region by issuing them licenses. Apart from fishermen, political workers and members of civil society also participated in the protest.
Thereafter, the National Party and Baloch Student Organisation had called for the protest rally and sit-in before the Gwadar Press Club against the government’s move.
The fortunes of this backward region had once looked promising – as China had promised Pakistan a new age of development through its flagship project – China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). However, as times have progressed – it is evident that Chinese loans have only exacerbated Islamabad’s debt problem and Pakistan is soon moving to become a vassal state to Beijing.
“The elite governing institutions – both the Pakistani Army and the government – are so indebted to their Chinese masters, that they are not even ready to protect the rights of their own population. The local populace of Gwadar has been one of the worst sufferers of this massive loot by Chinese masters and their Pakistani puppets – both on land and at sea,” said a senior officer with the intelligence agency.
Gwadar – as the center stage of CPEC – and once touted as next ‘Dubai’ was supposed to usher in economic upliftment of entire Balochistan.
The mirage has proved to be ever elusive, as huge tracts of lands were acquired by the Federal government from the local populace.
A large part of these lands have been illegally transferred for private purposes – including Defence Housing Authority – the ‘biggest land grabber’ – as described by Lahore High Court.
While this Chinese model of development has already deprived the local population of their homes – the next strike is on their means of livelihood.
At least two million people are connected to the fishing business in Gwadar.
Their livelihoods depend on day-to-day fishing. The intrusion of Chinese trawlers has created a fear of deprivation in their minds.
Chinese trawlers menace, earlier restricted to south-east Asia has now started spreading in Indian Ocean Region.
Chinese trawler fleet consisting of ‘factory ships’ – which process and package fish for sale in international markets, have intruded territorial waters of Pakistan, resulting in extensive fishing and dwindling catch for local fishermen.
As a video of Chinese trawlers by local fishermen of Gwadar went viral on social media, Ali Haider Zaidi, Pakistan’s Shipping Minister tweeted, “Deep-sea trawling is banned in Pakistan waters. PMSA is closely monitoring the trawler & boats spotted near Gwadar. Have ordered an inquiry. Strong action will be taken. Protecting our local fishermen is our top most priority.”
However, with no forthcoming action on ground, local populace has started the protests to fight for their rights.
The locals fear the exploitation of the town’s natural resources by China, thereby rebelling against several development projects.
Leader of Gwadar’s fishermen Khuda-i-Dad Waju stated that fishermen of Gwadar were already facing violation of fishing limits by Sindh’s fishing trawlers and now that the federal government has allowed foreign trawlers, it would deprive the fishermen of Gwadar of their livelihood.
Protesters said the fishermen of Gwadar had vacated their fishing spots for the construction of the Gwadar port hoping that their economic conditions would improve once the port was ready, but now the Imran Khan government had issued licences to Chinese trawlers which was badly affecting their livelihood.
With the Chinese fleets of government-subsidised ships straying into distant waters searching for seafood and the continuously increasing influence yielded by China, this intrusion has seriously impacted the local populace of Gwadar.
With no support from the federal or provisional government, the struggle for these fishermen is a long road ahead.
“This form of neo-colonialism by the Chinese, cloaked with promises of CPEC, is expected to have a deep adverse impact on the already struggling poor population of Pakistan,” said the officer.
(Sumit Kumar Singh can be reached at [email protected])