Government’s plan to fence Gwadar

Maham Tayyeb

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Reports regarding the government’s plan to fence the port town of Gwadar for security purposes have started a debate. Baloch political parties are calling it an intrigue and promised to oppose it at all forums. This discontent is part of a more extensive societal cynicism towards Islamabad driven mega economic development projects Balochistan, particularly the multibillion-dollar CPEC project. The fundamental explanation for building the fence in Gwadar is to shield the Chinese-financed projects from Baloch separatists, who oppose CPEC. Numerous Baloch politicians think the fencing will compel local people to move from the strategically significant city. Accordingly, the civilian and military elites keep up that CPEC will advance economic development and address major holes in physical and energy infrastructure. Pakistan is grappling with an intense economic crisis. Specialists state CPEC can surely stir the much needed economic activity in the nation.
There is no gainsay that economic development interventions like CPEC, can possibly reduce conflict in influenced zones. However, inadequately planned and badly arranged economic interventions may demonstrate counterproductive. This warrants a dispassionate review of the state’s methodology towards economic improvement in Balochistan. Rebel groups have pursued a separatist insurgency in the region for quite a long time, griping that Islamabad and the more extravagant Punjab province unjustifiably exploit their resources and assets. Effective economic development and reconstruction endeavors in conflict zones are ordinarily preceded by the end of threats and political reconciliation. Sustainable economic development can’t adequately continue without accomplishing a minimum level of peace. Economic development in the midst of conflict is loaded with several hazards.
It leads to a situation where the military expects a more noteworthy role in security matters as well as economic development interventions. This builds militarization in the district, which will undoubtedly make outrage in a spot like Balochistan with its long history of local hatred towards security check posts and cantonments. The Baloch dread that expanded militarization will strengthen suppression and further limit individuals’ movement. On the other side, military-driven economic interventions make issues of authenticity and local ownership. Political components in Balochistan across the range have expressed second thoughts about CPEC and the related militarization. The nearby populace in Gwadar, particularly fishermen, believe they are being dislodged and seized in their own territory. The fencing of Gwadar will make their worst nightmares come true.
Also, the non-inclusive, extractive model of development pushed by the elites in Islamabad has created hatred as well as added to the delegitimisation of parliamentary politics and detachment of pro-federation Baloch political voices. Baloch nationalist parties, which advocate peaceful parliamentary methods for the resolution of their complaints, have customarily been scrutinized by Baloch insurgents for offering authenticity to an ‘ineffective’ parliamentary system. The increase in the exploitative way to deal with economic development has reinforced the former narrative and subverted peaceful, pro-federation political voices in the region.
Ultimately, a militarized way to deal with economic development unintentionally puts off imminent investors and foreign governments for whom the upgraded safety measures are planned. Pulling in private or foreign investment in such a climate will undoubtedly be troublesome. The civilian and military elites need to understand that mega development activities like CPEC can’t prevail without local purchase in and proprietorship. Suppression and development can’t go hand in hand. Local help can be guaranteed by embracing an approach to deal with economic development that is conflict sensitive and prioritizes the goal of peace building over barely defined economic objectives. This, warrants the requirement for political reconciliation with Baloch extremists and the reception of a more comprehensive, participatory way to deal with development.
The current political settlement in Balochistan is delicate and exclusionary in nature. In such circumstances, it is crucial to initially change the current settlement and afterward advance economic development programs that are pointed toward decreasing conflict. But rather than going for political reconciliation, the state appears to be keen on utilizing coercive strategies to manage the situation. The security establishment needs to acknowledge that a hard methodology alone can guarantee just halfway and transitory peace, best case scenario, and that a low-level uprising could proceed inconclusively regardless of what safety measures are taken. Complete concealment and thrashing of the Baloch rebellion is almost inconceivable. Furthermore, low-level violence is sufficient to put the state on edge, draw global consideration and disrupt foreign investors.
In the light of the abovementioned, it tends to be genuinely presumed that the fencing of Gwadar is probably going to escalate sensations of hardship and marginalization in Balochistan. The people of Balochistan respect their coastal belt and Gwadar as a resource that may bring them ease and success. Only a conflict-sensitive and inclusive approach to development may advance ownership and produce more extensive socioeconomic advantages for the local people.

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