Gwadar protest leader warns Chinese to leave key Belt and Road port
December 22, 2022
ISLAMABAD -- A protest leader in the Pakistani port town of Gwadar, a key hub for China's Belt and Road Initiative, has warned Chinese citizens to leave by Thursday -- turning up the heat on a federal government already under pressure to protect Beijing's interests.
For over 50 days, the Haq Do Tehreek (Gwadar Rights Movement) has been staging a sit-in protest outside the main entrance to the port. [...]
Led by the politically ascendant Maulana Hidayat ur Rehman, the demonstrators have blocked the Gwadar East Bay Expressway, the key artery connecting the port with Pakistan's main highway network. They have also protested outside the under-construction New Gwadar International Airport. [...]
The protesters are demanding a reduction in security checkpoints in the area, an end to deep-sea fish trawling that they say has depleted their catches, and an easing of curbs on informal border trading with Iran. Experts say that although these demands are not directly linked to Chinese projects in Gwadar, many residents consider the developments part of the problem. [...]
Last year, Rehman led a similar protest for 32 days, after which the government negotiated with him and assured him that his demands would be met. "The government did not make good on its promises, and hence we have restarted the protest," Hafeez Kiyazai, a spokesperson for Haq Do Tehreek, told Nikkei Asia. [...]
This week, Rehman further fueled the confrontation by issuing the warning to Chinese nationals. There are fewer than 500 Chinese in Gwadar, all of them based in the Gwadar Port compound.
It was unclear what would happen to them if they did not comply and leave.
Kiyazai, the spokesperson, stressed that the movement had been protesting for around two months and still the government had not agreed to talk. He said that if the government "ignores" peaceful protests, then the people have a right "to pick up and use weapons to protect our rights."