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19 Jul 2022

ADNAN AAMIR, Nikkei Asia (Japan)

Pakistan: Belt and Road revival at risk as Gwadar protests continue

"Pakistan's Belt and Road revival at risk as Gwadar protest brews" 19 July 2022

The leader of a local rights movement in the Pakistani coastal town of Gwadar is threatening to launch a large sit-in protest this week, potentially jeopardizing the government's efforts to revitalize development around the Chinese-controlled port.

Gwadar is the linchpin of China's Belt and Road infrastructure endeavors in Pakistan -- known collectively as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). But development slowed under the previous leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan amid friction between the two governments. Among local residents, resentment has been simmering for years.

They say Islamabad has failed to address their concerns over thousands of illegal fishing trawlers from abroad and other parts of Pakistan depleting marine resources, along with insufficient water and power supplies and a clampdown on informal trade across the border with Iran.

In this tense atmosphere, a trained cleric from a fishing family has made a name for himself as a defender of the community of about 100,000 residents. Now he looks poised to upend new Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif's efforts to jump-start Gwadar's development and promote CPEC.

Molana Hidayat ur Rehman, the leader of Gwadar Ko Haq Do Tehreek (the Gwadar Rights Movement), has announced a major protest starting this Thursday. At a news conference in the northern city of Quetta, Rehman said that the sit-in would last for an indefinite period, accusing the government of not honoring promises it made to him about deep-sea fish trawling and other issues. [...]