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
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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.”


PSL 2024: Rutherford blitz ensures Quetta snatch last-ball win over Karachi

Updated 8 sec ago
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PSL 2024: Rutherford blitz ensures Quetta snatch last-ball win over Karachi

  • Sherfane Rutherford scores 58 runs from 31 balls to hand Quetta the victory
  • Quetta spinner Abrar Ahmed returns figures of 3/31 to put Karachi Kings at bay

ISLAMABAD: West Indian batter Sherfane Rutherford handed Quetta Gladiators their fourth victory of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2024 tournament on Thursday, smashing a fiery half-century as the Gladiators edged out Karachi Kings, the home side, in a last-ball thriller. 
Batting first, the Kings were considerably troubled by the Gladiators’ bowling line-up. Spinner Abrar Ahmed returned figures of 3/31 while Usman Tariq and Akeal Hosein finished with figures of 2/16 and 2/34 respectively.
James Vince top-scored for the Kings, scoring 37 runs from 25 balls while all-rounder Anwar Ali contributed with an impressive 25 runs from 14 balls. The Kings finished with a score of 165-8 from their 20 overs. 
“#PurpleForce breathe.. we have won the thrilling encounter,” the Gladiators wrote on social media platform X after securing the win. 
The Gladiators had a strong start to their batting, with opener Jason Roy scoring 53 runs from 31 balls while left-handed Saud Shakeel scored 24 runs from 20 balls. Middle order batters Khawaja Nafay, former skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed and Gladiators skipper Rilee Rossouw fell in quick succession, all failing to score in the double digits. 
However, an 80-run stand between Rutherford and Hosein proved to be fatal for the Kings, who lost to Quetta by five wickets in the end. 
Rutherford scored 58 runs from 31 balls, smashing six sixes and a four at a strike rate of 187.10. Hosein, on the other hand, scored 22 runs from 17 balls. 
For the Kings, Hasan Ali and Zahid Mahmood were the best bowlers, returning figures of 2/39 and 2/17 respectively. 
The Gladiators remain at number two on the PSL points table, with four wins from their five matches so far. The Kings remain at the number five spot with only two wins from their five matches in this year’s PSL.


OIC’s COMSTECH joins hands with Pakistan hospital for eye surgeries in Somalia

Updated 29 February 2024
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OIC’s COMSTECH joins hands with Pakistan hospital for eye surgeries in Somalia

  • COMSTECH, Al-Shifa Eye Trust Hospital to set up free cataract eye surgery camp in Mogadishu from March 1-10
  • Initiative aims to eliminate “avoidable blindness” with free cataract eye surgeries to those in need, says state media

ISLAMABAD: The Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) Ministerial Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (COMSTECH) has joined hands with a leading Pakistani hospital to provide free cataract eye surgeries in Mogadishu, Somalia, from next month, state-run media reported on Thursday. 
COMSTECH and Pakistan’s Al-Shifa Trust Eye Hospital are collaborating with Al-Nur Foundation Somali and the Benadir University Somalia to organize a free cataract eye surgery camp in Mogadishu from March 1-10, the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) said in a report. 
“The goal of this initiative is to eliminate avoidable blindness by providing free cataract surgeries to those in need,” the report said, adding the camp would be organized at the Dalmar Specialized and Teaching Hospital in Mogadishu. 
APP said that the eye surgery camp is poised to make a “significant impact” on the lives of individuals in need. 
“By offering free medical consultations, medications, eyeglasses, and surgeries to address cataract-related issues, the camp aims to alleviate the burden of visual impairment and improve the overall quality of life for participants,” APP said. 
Headquartered in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, COMSTECH aims to strengthen cooperation among OIC member states in science and technology, and enhance their capabilities through training in emerging areas.


Pakistan’s stock market records gain as National Assembly holds maiden sitting

Updated 29 February 2024
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Pakistan’s stock market records gain as National Assembly holds maiden sitting

  • Analysts say maiden National Assembly session boosted investors’ confidence in Pakistan’s stock market
  • After much political uncertainty and rigging accusations, Pakistani legislators will elect a new premier on Sunday

KARACHI: Pakistan’s stock market continued its bullish run on Thursday, extending its previous day’s gains to close with an increase of 1.3 percent, as political uncertainty somewhat decreased after the country’s National Assembly convened its maiden session following controversial polls this month.
The stock market’s benchmark KSE100 index gained 875 points to close at the 64,579 level on Thursday, official data showed. On Wednesday, the KSE100 index had gained by 484 points to close at 63,703 points. 
Pakistan has been wracked with political uncertainty due to countrywide protests by political parties, who say the national polls of Feb. 8 were heavily rigged. However, financial analysts noted that investors’ confidence in the market increased as Pakistan’s National Assembly held its maiden session on Thursday, indicating that the country would soon be led by a new democratic government. 
“Stocks closed bullish after the president summoned the National Assembly session himself for the formation of a government,” Ahsan Mehanti, the chief executive officer of Arif Habib Corporation, told Arab News. 
“The move is easing political noise.” 
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) parties have announced joining hands to form their government at the center. The two parties have the required number of seats to form a coalition government. They also have the support of smaller parties in the assembly and have announced former premier Shehbaz Sharif as their candidate for prime minister. 
Sheheryar Butt, portfolio manager at Pakistani securities brokerage company Darson Securities, said the market had continued its bullish trend from Wednesday amid growing anticipation of the PML-N forming the next government. 
“The next government will have to negotiate with IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the manifesto of the PML-N is compatible with the IMF,” Butt noted. 
He said that Pakistani investors expect the new government will continue to implement the measures undertaken by the caretaker administration to secure a new long-term program from the IMF.
One of the principal tasks of the new government would be to secure a long-term bailout program from the international lender, as its short-term program expires next month. Pakistan’s fragile $350-billion economy is in desperate need of external financing to shore its up its foreign exchange reserves and escape its economic crisis. 
“Pakistan needs a long-term program for at least three years to ensure economic stability, so the market expects that the PML-N will follow the footprint of the caretaker government,” he explained.
Butt was confident Pakistan would secure the last tranche from the IMF under the $3 billion short-term financing agreement it reached with the lender last summer. 
Pakistan’s National Assembly will elect the country’s prime minister on March 3 while elections for the speaker and deputy speaker’s posts are scheduled to be held on Friday, March 1.


Pakistan concludes 60-hour joint military exercise with Saudi Arabia, US, other nations 

Updated 29 February 2024
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Pakistan concludes 60-hour joint military exercise with Saudi Arabia, US, other nations 

  • The exercise was held at semi-mountainous terrain of Pakistan’s Punjab province from Feb. 25-27
  • Pakistan’s army chief attends closing ceremony, lauds participating teams for their professionalism

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan concluded a three-day, 60-hour joint military training exercise with participating teams from Saudi Arabia, the United States, Jordan and other countries this week, Pakistan Army’s media wing said on Thursday.
Pakistan opened the 7th International Pakistan Army Team Spirit (PATS) Exercise in the northwestern town of Pabbi on Sunday. The exercise, which ran from Feb. 25-27, was aimed at enhancing combat skills through the sharing of innovative ideas and experiences by participants. 
The exercise would also help hone basic soldierly attributes besides interoperability through the sharing of innovative ideas and mutual best practices, the ISPR said last week. 
Seven teams from the Pakistan Army and 15 teams from Bahrain, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Maldives, Morocco, Qatar, the US, Uzbekistan, Srilanka, Thailand and Turkiye participated in the exercise. Azerbaijan, China, Germany, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Myanmar witnessed the exercise as observers, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said.
“The exercise was conducted from 25-27 Feb 2024 in the semi-mountainous terrain of Punjab,” the ISPR said. “Over the years, the exercise has gained much prominence as a very competitive professional military activity for friendly countries.”
Pakistan’s army chief General Syed Asim Munir attended the event’s closing ceremony at the eastern city of Kharian, the ISPR said. Munir appreciated the participating teams for their professionalism, and for demonstrating physical and mental endurance during the various stages of the exercise.
“At the end, COAS [chief of army staff] gave away individual and team awards to the participants of the exercise,” the ISPR said.
Pakistan routinely holds joint air, ground and sea exercises with friendly nations to foster interoperability and joint deployment concepts to counter threats to global peace.
Several cadets from these nations annually visit the South Asian country, which has fought back militancy for decades, to undergo specialized military training.


Pakistan’s Rawalpindi administration to deploy over 5,000 cops for next month’s PSL matches

Updated 29 February 2024
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Pakistan’s Rawalpindi administration to deploy over 5,000 cops for next month’s PSL matches

  • Pakistan’s eastern Rawalpindi city will host Pakistan Super League matches from March 2-10
  • Snipers, police to be stationed along ‘critical routes’ and at rooftops near stadium says state media

ISLAMABAD: The administration in Pakistan’s Rawalpindi has taken “extensive measures” to provide security to players and citizens as the city gears up to host the remaining matches of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2024 tournament next month, state-run media reported on Thursday.
Pakistan’s eastern city of Rawalpindi will host PSL matches from March 2-10. PSL matches every year draw thousands of people to stadiums in Lahore, Multan, Karachi and Rawalpindi, where matches are usually held. The PSL also features apart from local cricket stars, international cricketers of renown. 
The Rawalpindi administration has finalized a security plan ahead of the tournament’s matches, the Associate Press of Pakistan (APP) said in a report, amid a surge in militant attacks across the country. 
“Under the security plan finalized for PSL matches, over 5,000 police personnel, including elite forces, would be deployed to provide foolproof security cover to the matches,” the APP said. 
It said the security plan includes closing stations, managing traffic, and “strict surveillance” to ensure the safety of the cricketers, officials and spectators. 
It said around 750 police officers would be tasked with managing the teams’ movement from the Islamabad airport across the districts of Attock and Rawalpindi.
“Snipers, along with police equipped with advanced security tools, would be stationed along critical routes and rooftops near the stadium,” the report said. “These measures are designed to ensure a secure environment for the event.”
It said Rwalpindi’s traffic police has also developed a traffic management plan to cope with the expected increase in vehicles during the matches. 
Pakistani authorities have been wary of attacks targeting cricketers and cricket events, especially since 2009 when militants attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore. The incident scared international teams from touring Pakistan, forcing the South Asian country to choose the UAE as its home ground for several years before international teams started touring the country again.
Pakistan has seen a surge in militant violence, especially in its western regions bordering Afghanistan, since November 2022 after a fragile truce between the state and the Pakistani Taliban broke down.