Fishermen hope, and worry, as China builds giant port in Pakistan’s Gwadar

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Over thousand people are associated with boat making profession who manufacture boats on the west bay, locally called Paddi Zirr (AN Photo by Hassam Lashkari)
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China-Pakistan Government Middle School Faqeer Colony, Gwadar is one the several projects to educate youth to produce local employees for jobs in different projects of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, official Sohail Asgher told Arab News (AN Photo by Hassam Lashkari)
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The Express Way that connects Gwadar port with Coastal Highway was hurdling fishermen from using East Bay, however, authorities after protest by the fishermen agreed to build three bridges and breakwater for passage of the fishermen (AN Photo by Hassam Lashkari)
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Gwadar Port became formally operational on 14 November 2016, when it was inaugurated by Pakistan's Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif. However, the port has yet to start commercial operation. (AN Photo by Hassam Lashkari)
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A large number of Gwadar’s population depends on fishing to for their livelihood (AN Photo by Hassam Lashkari)
Updated 01 May 2019

Fishermen hope, and worry, as China builds giant port in Pakistan’s Gwadar

  • Port expansion has already displaced 800 fishermen who live on or close to the bay, construction of expressway deepens anxiety
  • Maritime affairs minister says government has adequately addressed all of the fishermen’s concerns

GWADAR: For over two decades, Pakistani officials have promised to transform the poor coastal village of Gwadar into Pakistan’s version of Dubai, or a second Shenzhen, a tiny fishing community in China that has developed into a sprawling megacity.

Gwadar, in the restive Balochistan province, forms the southern Pakistan hub of a $62-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) of infrastructure and energy projects that Beijing announced in 2014. The project is a flagship of China’s Belt and Road initiative to build a new “Silk Road” of land and maritime trade routes across more than 60 countries in Asia, Europe and Africa.
So far, Beijing has pledged vast aid for Gwadar — which overlooks some of the world’s busiest oil and gas shipping lanes — and is building a commercial deep-water port there. A school has already been constructed and $500 million more in handouts have been promised, including $230 million for a shiny new airport. A hospital, college and badly-needed water infrastructure will also be built with Chinese grants.
But locals, particularly Gwadar’s fishermen, are worried. The expansion of the port has already displaced around 800 fishermen who live on or close to the port. Now, the construction of the Gwadar Eastbay Expressway is deepening worries.
“This is going to deprive us of our source of earning,” Muhammad Akber, a 71-year-old fisherman, said at Dimi Zarr on the east bay of the port. “Fishing has been our profession since the days of our forefathers. But the way we are being pushed out, we may lose this.”
Until 2007, what is now being built into a commercial port was a tiny jetty jutting out into the Arabia Sea. In March of that year, military ruler General Pervez Musharraf officially inaugurated the port, promising to make it a gateway for trade with Central Asia. China provided 80 percent of Gwadar’s $248 million initial development costs. Pakistan’s two other ports are at Karachi, 450 km to the east.
The first round of displacement of fisherman occurred then as construction of the port began in 2007. Now as the Chinese have picked up the expansion plans under the CPEC project, an expressway is being built to connect the east bay of the port directly to the Makran Coastal Highway.
The east bay is where a majority of fishing takes place, Akbar explained, and construction of the expressway has disrupted work.
Earlier this year, the government said it would allow three passages for boats underneath the expressway so that fishermen were not disturbed. Locals have largely accepted the proposal but fear persists that once the port is fully functional, the fishermen’s livelihood will be the last thing on the government’s mind.
“We haven’t avoided making any sacrifice [for CPEC] as we believe in development and we want development. But we also strongly believe we must be the first and prime beneficiary,” Akber said.
Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs, Ali Haider Zaidi, said the government had addressed all the concerns of fishermen.
“The Gwadar Development Authority has acceded all demands for design changes to the Eastbay Expressway by including three bridges and a breakwater to its design,” Zaidi told Arab News. He said the government was also constructing two fishing jetties at Surbandan and Pishukaan and assured that fishing on the east bay would not be disturbed due to the construction of the bridges and the breakwater.
Zaidi said the Prime Minister’s flagship ‘Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme,’ launched this month, included 110,000 apartments for the fishermen of Gwadar who would also get health insurance cards in the near future.
“The Pak-China Vocational Training Institute (PCVTI) is being constructed with a Chinese grant of $10 million so that fishermen can acquire the necessary skills for port-related services,” he said. “Once the port is fully operational and the CPEC route is completed … it will attract other investments such as hotels and tourism, which will create job opportunities for local fishermen and their families,” Zaidi said.
But the people of Gwadar say they have heard all these promises before.
“Long before Musharraf inaugurated the Gwadar port in 2007, we were asked to see a dream of a beautiful new life,” Nasir Raheem, a youth activist and resident of Gwadar, told Arab News. “We dreamed but nothing changed.”
“Who knows what we will get from this massive project?” he said.
The skepticism is not without reason. Balochistan is Pakistan’s biggest but poorest province, plagued for decades by a low-level insurgency by separatists seeking autonomy and control of gas and mineral resources. The province also has the country’s largest gas reserves and is rich in minerals, including copper and uranium. Militants often attack pipelines, power transmission cables, railway tracks, buses and military and government installations. They also oppose the construction of the port.
Though the security situation has improved in recent years and many separatists have surrendered, attacks continue. Earlier this month, a separatist group pulled 14 members of the Pakistani armed forces off a bus and shot them dead on the province’s southern coast.
Balochistan also has some of the worst health indicators in the country. About 62 percent of its population does not have access to safe drinking water and more than 58 percent of its land, which makes up 44 percent of Pakistan’s total land mass, is uncultivable due to water shortages.
“Prosperity is a combination of many things: better health care, best education and employment. We want prosperity,” said Dad Kareem, another fisherman. “Our hospitals don’t offer more than treatment for fever and cough.”
Many also complained about the lack of transparency in executing projects in Gwadar.
“The people don’t believe the government is serious,” said Ahmed Iqbal Baloch, the president of the Gwadar Builders Association.
In 2016, Pakistan welcomed the first large shipment of Chinese goods at Gwadar, where the China Overseas Ports Holding Company Ltd. took over operations in 2013. It plans to eventually handle 300 million to 400 million tons of cargo a year and develop seafood processing plants in a nearby free trade zone sprawled over 2,281 acres.
Anticipating development, many locals sold their lands. But property prices have continued to rise two- to four-fold on average since 2016 and many now feel they were pushed to let go of their properties at much less than the market price.
Baloch from the Gwadar Builders Association insisted that once the port was fully functional, the major beneficiaries would be the people of Gwadar.
Shahzeb Khan Kakar, Director General of the Gwadar Development Authority (GDA), said work on a water distillation plant with the capacity to produce 5 million gallons per day was just getting started. Separately, two dams were already providing 50 million gallons of water to the parched city.
Currently, Iran is supplying 100 megawatts of electricity to Balochistan’s Makran division, of which Gwadar is a part. This, locals say, is insufficient and there are often month-long power breakdowns.
Kakar said these issues would be resolved once a 300MW coal power plant was built under the CPEC portfolio. Prime Minister Imran Khan has also ordered that Gwadar be connected to the national grid.
Officials also said locals’ complaints that they were getting jobs in CPEC projects were unfair.
Jiand Baloch, a spokesperson for the Gwadar Port Authority (GPA), said almost 95 percent of the staff employed at the Authority was Baloch and a sizeable number were from Gwadar. Arab News could not independently verify these figures.
Baloch said more locals would be employed in the Authority once planned free trade zones were fully functional and other CPEC projects, including the vocational training institute, were completed.
Sohail Asgher, a deputy director at GPA, said the youth of Gwadar would be taught 101 new trades at the vocational institute to prepare them for employment at the industrial zone.
“A single batch will produce around 5,000 skilled workers, both males and females,” Asghar said.
Engineer Dadullah, a resident of Gwadar city and project manager at the Free Trade Zone, said around 700 locals were already employed at the industrial zones. “More will get jobs as it expands,” he said.
But Faisal Baloch, a local youth who lives near the port, said the government needed to follow a policy of transparency to gain the trust of the people of Gwadar.
“Hollow claims in the past have left us with little reason to believe the government’s claims today,” he said. “Let’s wait and hope to see what we get from CPEC.”


Pakistan can be kings again despite India’s IPL riches, says Nazar 

Updated 21 October 2021

Pakistan can be kings again despite India’s IPL riches, says Nazar 

  • Starting in 2008, a year after the inaugural T20 World Cup, the IPL ushered in a new era of white-ball cricket 
  • Pakistan once had a far better head-to-head record against India who played catch up with their arch-rivals from 2000 onwards 

DUBAI: Former Pakistan all-rounder Mudassar Nazar insists his country will once again be the kings of Asian cricket despite India’s rise as world beaters on the back of the riches of the IPL. 
Pakistan were kings of the sub-continent from the mid-1980s to 1990s with their on-field brilliance under Imran Khan, who led them to the 1992 World Cup, before India turned the tables. 
“I don’t think Pakistan has changed. It is India who have changed,” Nazar told AFP ahead of the eagerly-awaited India-Pakistan clash at the Twenty20 World Cup in Dubai on Sunday. 
“With the advent of the IPL they have used the money really, really well. If you look at the domestic competition in India, look at all the associations, how well they are organizing their cricket. 
He added: “Everybody has got their own stadium, their own academies, school cricket, state cricket. Cricket is thriving in India. 
“But the people who have been consistently doing well have been England and Australia...India is in the forefront and among the three best sides in the world.” 
Starting in 2008, a year after the inaugural T20 World Cup, the IPL ushered in a new era of white-ball cricket that witnessed the game break new ground in viewership and fan base.

The IPL emerged as the world’s richest T20 league with its brand value estimated at $6.7 billion in 2019 by the Duff and Phelps financial consultancy.

At the same time, Pakistan was becoming a no-go zone for international cricket following the 2009 terror attack on the visiting Sri Lanka team.
“The BCCI have been very clever in how they used the IPL money. Indian cricket was powerful before that but since then it has seen a lot of consistency,” said Nazar. 
“They have got all the areas covered. You talk about fast bowling, you talk about spinners, fielding, the physical side, it’s a powerhouse. They seem to be getting top class batsmen every season. At the moment they are looking very formidable.”

But Nazar remains hopeful that the Pakistan Super League (PSL) — the nation’s premier T20 tournament — and new management will revive the game.

“It is also a matter of cycles. One decade we could be better than the rest of the world and then somebody else catches up,” said Nazar, who played 76 Tests between 1976 and 1989 with a batting average of over 38. 
He also sees a bright future under new PCB chairman Ramiz Raja.
“Things have started to improve with the PSL, but it will take time. It took time for India to revive.” 
“There is no club cricket and there is hardly any state cricket, so that’s a stumbling block. 
“But now with the new management coming in, Ramiz is a former cricketer and I think he will shape things better, put us on the right path and in the next couple of years probably we will be as strong as we used to be.” 
Pakistan once had a far better head-to-head record against India who played catch up with their arch-rivals from 2000 onwards. 
Nazar, who had been part of that strong Pakistan set-up, said the national team will someday turn a corner and notch up their first win against India in a World Cup. 
“When we were playing we always had the edge and toward the end of my career we won most games against India than we lost,” said the 65-year-old Nazar. 
“It needs somebody to come up with some brilliance. Somebody has a damn good game. Somebody has a decent century and bowls a decent spell and all of a sudden the tables will turn.” 


Boycott calls add to India-Pakistan cricket tensions ahead of World Cup clash in Dubai

Updated 20 October 2021

Boycott calls add to India-Pakistan cricket tensions ahead of World Cup clash in Dubai

  • India has largely refused to play bilateral games against Pakistan since 2008, after deadly attacks in Mumbai which it blamed on Pakistan
  • Indian atheletes say ‘sports and politics should not be mixed’ and the World Cup match between the two countries should go on

Dubai: Cricket tensions between India and Pakistan have been heightened by boycott calls in India ahead of their T20 World Cup clash on Sunday.
A series of killings in the disputed Kashmir region has set off the anger, even though the Indian board has insisted the national team cannot withdraw from the game.
Decades of bitter rivalry between the neighbors often clouds their cricket encounters. India has largely refused to play bilateral games against Pakistan since 2008, after deadly attacks in Mumbai which India blamed on Pakistan.
Now they only play each other in international events. The last meeting was at the 50-over World Cup two years ago but even that was at the center of boycott calls.
The killings of 11 migrant workers and minority Hindus and Sikhs in Indian-administered Kashmir have led to the latest demands made in India, which frequently accuses Pakistan of backing Kashmir militant groups. The hashtag #BlacklistPakistan was trending on Twitter Wednesday.
Rajeev Shukla, the Board of Control for Cricket in India vice president, said earlier that the country had a contractual obligation to take part.
“We strongly condemns the killings. However, under the International Cricket Council’s commitments, you can’t refuse to play any one (game),” Shukla told Indian media.
A cabinet minister, Giriraj Singh, had also urged the government to consider intervening to stop the match.
“I think if relations are not good, then this should be reconsidered,” Singh said when questioned about the match. Other politicians have also joined the calls.
However, India’s badminton great Prakash Padukone said, “sports and politics should not be mixed and according to me it (the India-Pakistan match) should go on.”
India was also urged to boycott the 2019 World Cup game against Pakistan because of a Kashmir suicide bomber attack in February of that year in which more than 40 troops were killed.
Pakistan denied any role in the assault but the two countries came to the brink of war. India won the game which went ahead in June 2019.
India and Pakistan last played a bilateral series in 2013 during a brief thaw in their rivalry.
The two countries have fought two wars over Kashmir — divided between the two nations — since their independence in 1947.


Bomb hits security vehicle in northwest Pakistan, killing four

Updated 20 October 2021

Bomb hits security vehicle in northwest Pakistan, killing four

  • The attack happened in Bajaur, a district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan
  • There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the latest attack, though suspicion fell on the Pakistani Taliban based in Afghanistan

PESHAWAR: A roadside bomb struck a vehicle carrying security forces in a former stronghold of local militants in northwest Pakistan on Wednesday, killing four, police said.
The attack happened in Bajaur, a district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. The area served as a base for the Pakistani Taliban until a few years ago, when the army said it cleared the region of insurgents. But the violence has continued there.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the latest attack.
Senior police officer Abdul Samad Khan said two police officers and two soldiers were killed in the attack. He said troops launched a search operation in the region to find those who orchestrated the attack.
Khan refused to speculate on who could be behind the attack.
But suspicion fell on Pakistan’s own Taliban who have been emboldened by the return to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan, where thousands of Pakistani militants are still believed to be hiding.
Pakistan and Afghanistan share a 2,400-kilometer (1,500-mile) internationally recognized border known as the Durand Line, which was drawn in the 19th century when the British dominated South Asia. Kabul has never recognized the boundary.
Before the the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan often accused each other of turning a blind eye to militants operating along the porous frontier.


At Moscow meet, Pakistan urges global powers to continue economic engagement with Afghanistan

Updated 20 October 2021

At Moscow meet, Pakistan urges global powers to continue economic engagement with Afghanistan

  • Ambassador Sadiq asks world to unfreeze Afghanistan assets to avert economic meltdown
  • Pakistan advocates enhanced cooperation with Afghanistan to address challenges such as global terrorism

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Wednesday urged the international community to continue its economic engagements with Afghanistan to prevent another humanitarian disaster in the region, adding it was imperative in this context to unfreeze the Afghan financial assets parked in other countries.
Pakistan’s special representative for Afghanistan, Ambassador Muhammad Sadiq, highlighted the issue while addressing a major international conference in Moscow that brought together officials from various regional countries.
The international community froze nearly $10 billion of Afghanistan’s financial assets in other countries after the fall of Kabul on August 15 since the money was viewed as a key instrument to mount political pressure on the Taliban.
Sadiq said in a Twitter post on Wednesday he proposed three “broad contours of engagement with Afghanistan” while speaking at the Moscow forum.
These included “extending urgent humanitarian support to Afghanistan, to remain economically engaged to [avert] financial meltdown [by] de-freezing of Afghanistan’s foreign assets … [and] enhance cooperation [with Kabul] to address common challenges, such as combatting terrorism, trans-national crime and border management,” he wrote on the social media platform.


Sadiq said the “international community must not abandon Afghanistan at this critical juncture.”
Meanwhile, Russia stepped up pressure on the Taliban to create an inclusive administration during the conference which was also attended by China, Iran, India and Central Asian countries.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted by Reuters as saying that he regretted the US absence from the talks, the biggest international meeting on the region since the Taliban victory in August.
Russia previously said it was not a rush to recognize the Taliban, as officials in Moscow noted the former Afghan rebel faction should fulfil its political commitments on human rights and political inclusivity to the world at large.
The Taliban deputy prime minister, Abdul Salam Hanafi, told the forum that “isolating Afghanistan is in no one’s interest.”
He added the Taliban had moved as quickly as possible on opening up their government and guaranteeing rights to women, reported Reuters, while adding that the Afghan faction did not represent a threat to any other country.

 


‘I am not at peace,’ Noor Mukadam’s mother says at protest demonstration in Islamabad

Updated 20 October 2021

‘I am not at peace,’ Noor Mukadam’s mother says at protest demonstration in Islamabad

  • ‘Noor was also a woman and I’m a mother and a woman too,’ says Kausar Mukadam while reacting to the bail of Asmat Adamjee in the murder case
  • A district court judge snubs the prime suspect, Zahir Jaffer, for violating the court’s decorum by trying to speak during the proceedings

ISLAMABAD: Family and friends of Noor Mukadam, a 27-year-old woman who was brutally murdered on July 20 in Islamabad, urged the judiciary to deliver swift justice in the case on Wednesday as they demanded the killer to be hanged as soon as possible.
About a dozen of these protesters gathered in front of the Parliament House as they sought early justice for Mukadam, the daughter of a former Pakistani diplomat Shaukat Mukadam, two days after the Supreme Court granted bail to Asmat Adamjee, the mother of the prime suspect, Zahir Jaffer, who, along with her husband, Zakir Jaffer, was arrested for allegedly abetting the crime.
Mukadam’s beheaded body was found at the Jaffer residence in Islamabad on July 20, after which their three household staff, namely Iftikhar, Jan Muhammad and Jameel, were also arrested.
“I am not at peace. I can’t sleep,” Kausar Mukadam, the victim’s mother, said while speaking to the media outside the Parliament House. “You don’t know, my daughter was a center of attraction in our home. I keep looking for her in my home. We won’t be at peace until we get justice.”

Noor Mukadam's family and friends hold a protest demonstration in Islamabad, Pakistan, on October 20, 2021. (Photo courtesy: Justice for Noor)

The participants of the gathering, including Mukadam’s parents, were carrying placards seeking swift justice in the case, though they also expressed confidence and trust in the judiciary.
“She [Noor Mukadam] was the youngest in our home, and we all used to treat her as a baby,” her mother said. “She was a soft spoken person who used to play with children.”
Discussing Asmat Adamjee’s bail which was granted to her for being a woman, she said: “Noor was also a woman, and I’m a mother and a woman too. I also deserve sympathy. I am hopeful the judiciary will give us justice.”
Kausar Mukadam maintained all suspects in the case were involved in the murder since none of them helped her daughter escape. “No one should get bail and they should be punished,” she said.

People seeking swift justice in the Noor Mukadam murder case hold placards during a protest demonstration in Islamabad, Pakistan, on October 20, 2021. (Photo courtesy: Justice for Noor)

Shaukat Mukadam, the victim’s father, said his family would accept the courts’ verdicts in the case, though he added that people were “disappointed with the [Supreme Court bail] decision.”
“The murderer should be hanged as soon as possible,” he said.
Separately, a district and sessions judge Atta Rabbani recorded the statement of a police witness in the case and adjourned the hearing until October 27.
As per the directions of the Islamabad High Court, the district court is required to complete the murder trial within a period of eight weeks.


The judge also snubbed Zahir Jaffer during the proceedings for violating the court’s decorum by trying to speak during the hearing.
“Don’t interrupt the proceedings,” the judge remarked while ordering the police to keep the suspect quiet in the courtroom.
His mother, Adamjee, requested the court during the proceedings to allow her to live in the F-7 residence where the gruesome murder had taken place since she had to stay in the federal capital to attend all the court hearings.
“This is your home, you can live there,” the judge said while Adamjee’s lawyer requested the court to put it on record to avoid any legal complications.