Gwadar fishermen protest in a file photo. Image Credit: Twitter

Islamabad: Residents of Gwadar port city have said they are ending the month-long protest after the government agreed to most of their demands. The federal and provincial ministers also announced development projects worth billions of rupees to improve access to water, electricity, health, education and facilitate the fishermen.

“We have decided to call off our protest” following negotiations with the government as the “ministers have fully assured that they will meet our demands” said Maulana Hidayat ur Rehman, who was spearheading the protest. Balochistan minister for planning and development Mir Zahoor Ahmed Buledi also termed the negotiations to be ‘successful’ which would help address the grievances of the local residents.

Gwadar protest

Located in Pakistan’s Balochistan province along the Arabian Sea, Gwadar is a key sea port with the potential to become regional trade hub under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Thousands of people, including women and children, joined the peaceful protest, under the banner of “Give rights to Gwadar.” They demanded end to the illegal trawling hurting the livelihoods of local fishermen, easing of security checkpoints and facilitating trade in the city.

On Thursday, the government officials including federal planning and development minister Asad Umar, minister for defence production Zobaida Jalal, chief minister of Balochistan Abdul Qudoos Bizenjo and CPEC authority chairman Khalid Mansoor visited Gwadar and held talks with the protesters on a positive note after which the protest was called off.

Prime Minister Imran Khan earlier directed the federal and provincial authorities to take strict action against those involved in illegal trawling.

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An agreement being signed by officials on Thursday. Image Credit: Twitter

Highlights of the agreement

The agreement signed between the two parties says that the government will constitute a committee to do away with unnecessary check posts in Gwadar, Kech and Panjgur districts. There will be complete ban on illegal fishing, the Balochistan ministers assured the locals.

A joint patrolling team comprising district administration and local fishermen will be constituted to monitor and prevent illegal trawling on Gwadar’s coastline. Meanwhile, director general fisheries will be transfered to Gwadar to resolve issues faced by local people.

The government will also take steps to allow local fishermen to expand fishing zone from 12 to 30 nautical miles from the seashore and to not restrict the movement of fishermen. The marine catch done within 12 nautical miles comes under the provincial jurisdiction and afterwards under the federal government.

The government will announce development packages for the local population which will include Rs295 million as compensation for those affected by the construction of new roads around Gwadar.

Development package for Balochistan

Minister Asad Umar said that the people of Gwadar will soon witness the impact of the new development projects in health, education, water, electricity, IT and other sectors.

Pakistan government has announced 199 projects worth Rs601 billion for the development of southern Balochistan of which Rs 90 billion has been allocated in fiscal year 2020-21. At least 16 new dams will be constructed in the southern areas at the cost of Rs99 billion which will add 0.5 million acre feet (MAF) of water. The government has also approved 1.2 million gallon per day water desalination plant for Gwadar to provide fresh water for the people of the Gwadar city.

Nearly Rs245 billion will be spent on construction of 1100km long roads. Pakistan is also in talks with Iran government to provide additional 100MW electricity to Gwadar city while the isolated Makran/Gwadar network will be connected to national grid within two years at the cost of Rs17billion.

To improve digital connectivity in Gwadar, a Rs2 billion contract has been awarded to Ufone telecom company while the high-speed broadband project has been completed at coastal highway and Karachi-Quetta-Chaman highway.