Should Chinese Have ‘Normal Life’ in Gwadar at the Cost of Baloch?

Francesca Marino
·6-min read

“The development of Gwadar Port is driving the economic development of Balochistan and even Pakistan as a whole. Moreover, Gwadar Port will become the nearest sea port for Afghanistan, Tajikistan and other Central Asian inland countries, and become a regional logistics and shipping centre .... President of Pakistan Dr Arif Alvi visited Gwadar and underlined the need to utilise Gwadar Port free zone area for transit trade with regional countries including Afghanistan.

Interesting, isn’t it? This is one of the latest reports published by China Economic Net. As the saying goes: “Relevant Chinese enterprises have undertaken an enormous amount of work in the fields of joint operations against the pandemic and social livelihood, and won wide acclaim and appreciation from all walks of life in Gwadar. Gwadar Port has become a bright spot of successfully balancing pandemic prevention and project construction during the CPEC development in 2020.”

Also Read: Are Pakistan & China Turning War-Torn Gwadar Into Another ‘Dubai’?

Chinese Investments in Pakistan a ‘Key Focus’?

Sure.

While the Baloch were kept in so-called quarantine camps resembling the antechamber of Hell. But this is another story. The China Economic Net report has been quoted in an article published by Independent News Pakistan (INP). According to another article published by INP: “Chinese investment to Pakistan tops with dollar 402.8 million during seven months of the current fiscal year. According to a report published by Gwadar Pro, China’s vote of confidence in Pakistan’s economy deepens after China stays atop as the sole highest contributor of net foreign direct investment (FDI) when compared to other countries in Pakistan”.

No surprise, then, when you find out that INP takes Chinese investments in Pakistan as a key focus and on its website claims that “INP has bilateral news exchange arrangements with China’s State-run News Agency XINHUA and China Radio International (CRI)”.

Also Read: China’s High-Security Compound at Gwadar: Should India Worry?

What is the ‘Gwadar Pro’ App?

Gwadar Pro, widely quoted in almost each and every report of INP, is even more interesting. Gwadar Pro is an app, available for both Google and Apple, launched in March 2019 during the 'Gwadar Expo' with the purpose of “linking Gwadar to the rest of the world” after separating it from the rest of Balochistan.

The app offers very useful tools: an English-Chinese-Urdu translation tool, air ticket service, hotels booking, exchange rates. But, above all, offers a news service where you can find masterpieces like: “PM Imran hails China for achieving complete victory over poverty” or “Pakistan People Injected Hope with Chines Vaccines”.

The app is managed and developed by China Economic Net, and also has Twitter and Instagram accounts.

INP, Gwadar Pro, China Economic Net and Xinhua Service are all mainly focussed on Gwadar and CPEC, and constantly quote each other’s reports. They are all children of the same monster: the all season alliance between Pakistan and China and their efforts to turn Balochistan into the next Xinjiang.

What Happened When Locals Started Noticing the ‘Fencing’ & ‘Split’ in Gwadar?

When it comes to Gwadar, it is not only a matter of investments or fencing, in fact, not only an issue of beach resorts and luxury golf clubs. As the Chinese know very well, you need propaganda, lots of propaganda, to make things happen and to keep people quiet. They did it with Xinjang, and they succeeded in convincing Pakistan that their Uighur brothers are safe and happy in 'education camps'. In the same way, they're trying to convince Pakistan in general and Baloch in particular, that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is actually much better than everything else that could happen to them, and that Gwadar — with its 'development' agenda — is the next combination of Wonderland and Neverland. Despite evidence to the contrary.

When locals started noticing their latest ‘gift’, a fence splitting the city in two, Senator Mir Kabir Mohammed Shahi, member of the National Party, held a press conference in Quetta.

He argued that the fence is part of an effort to separate Gwadar from the rest of Balochistan and invoking memories of Musharraf's good old times when they first tried to separate Gwadar from the region bringing it under federal control. The government, as usual, did not reply. The Chinese too did not say a word. It is not even clear, in fact, if the fencing had been done at the behest of the Chinese, since there are no records or references for it. Officially. Because the reply came days later through the Independent News Pakistan.

‘Chinese Workers in Gwadar Deserve a Normal Life’

In one of their reports on Gwadar, INP quoted the Gwadar Port Authority chairman who described the fence as “a long proposed desire that has come true now”, that will enable “a transformation of Gwadar to become safer and more secure on modern age’s demand”.

According to the same report, the fencing had been done “in collaboration with the Army, Makran Administration, Gwadar Development Authority, Gwadar Port Authority and Balochistan government” — and the “installation of iron fences will be completed in phases”. The report, widely shared by the Pakistani press, also quotes “a senior GDA official” who apparently feels really sorry for poor Chinese workers and literally claims: “Since Chinese people came here and exerted their energies on many assignments, they did not venture out to enjoy routine life in the streets and markets of Gwadar due to security issues”.

Adding that: “A recent terror attack at a private hotel in Gwadar had further limited their foot movement. They deserve a normal life free from all sorts of threats. After rigorous work, they need to go for outings and cherish the marvellous walk at the boisterous beaches of Gwadar. They must have an environment in which they dine outside, enjoying and feasting their eyes on traditional Gwadar cuisines. They seek leisure time besides shopping sprees with their families”.

What About the Baloch?

Translation: The Baloch can go to hell and stay locked in their part of the city, while allowing for the Chinese to have their own playground — shopping malls and leisure time et al.

While the rest of the country is serving the Chinese press opium via the local media, the same media has been described by Imran Khan as “more free” than in any Western country.

(Francesca Marino is a journalist and a South Asia expert who has written ‘Apocalypse Pakistan’ with B Natale. Her latest book isBalochistan — Bruised, Battered and Bloodied’. She tweets at @francescam63. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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