Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday announced that the government would take "strong action" against illegal fishing by trawlers off the Gwadar coast, as its residents’ protest for their basic rights entered its 28th day.
In a tweet, the premier said he had taken notice of the "very legitimate demands" of the hardworking fisherfolk of Gwadar, a linchpin of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.
According to the premier, he would also speak to Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Quddus Bizenjo so the reservations of the province’s fisherfolk community could be addressed.
The people of Gwadar have been staging a sit-in in the port city for their fundamental rights for almost a month.
The sit-in is being led by Maulana Hidayat-ur-Rehman, the provincial general secretary of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Balochistan.
On Friday, thousands of people, including women and children as well as fishermen, marched on the main roads and streets of Gwadar in support of their movement.
Several rounds of talks between the Balochistan government and the protesters have failed, as the demonstrators said they will not end their protest on mere verbal promises.
Their demands include the provision of potable water to the citizens, civic amenities, employment opportunities for the locals and removal of unnecessary security checkpoints spread across the city.
The protesters have also demanded an end to illegal fishing in Gwadar's waters by foreign trawlers.
They say that illegal fishing trawlers were destroying Baloch fisherfolk's livelihood and the marine environment. They also want restrictions on trade with Iran -- a major source of income for the locals -- to be lifted.
I have taken notice of the very legitimate demands of the hardworking fishermen of Gwadar. Will be taking strong action against illegal fishing by trawlers & will also speak to CM Balochistan.— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) December 12, 2021
The only demand that has been complied with so far is the closure of wine shops in Gwadar.
On December 6, Balochistan's director general of public relations issued a list that showed progress made so far on the protesters’ demands.
According to the authorities, the office of the director general of Fisheries has moved to Gwadar and patrolling has increased to check on illegal trawlers.
They also claimed that the special token system to go to sea had been eliminated and fisherfolk could proceed without any permission.
They added that all unnecessary checkpoints had been removed and all wine shops closed on government instructions.
As per the list, all kinds of interference and establishment of trade markets at border with Iran had been ended.
The government also promised to appoint a vice chancellor for the Gwadar University and said classes would start soon.
On the hiring for empty seats of the provincial education department's non-teaching staff, the selection process for appointment had been completed, it added.
The government maintained that the inspection of Gwadar's medical stores had been completed to curtail the sale of fake medicines.
It said a policy on the waivers and subsidies on utility bills would be clarified soon and the chief minister had written a letter to Quetta Electric Supply Company.
The provincial government also claimed that a legal team had been formed on the issue of the release of seized cars and boats by coastguards.
As for the provision of clean drinking water, the government maintained that a project would be completed soon. It added that the supply of water had been initiated.
It claimed that a special desk had been formed in the district commissioner's office to resolve the matter of giving priority to locals on jobs for development projects.
On the Implementation on the agreement with residents of Dar Bela, the government claimed that compensation had been paid to affected people and a separate area was being selected for land compensation.
It added that compensation had been paid to the people affected by the Expressway and special measures were being taken for the remaining ones.
On the removal of cases filed against protest leaders and their names from the Fourth Schedule, it said the matter had been sent to the provincial cabinet.
On the losses incurred because of storms and illegal trawlers, the government said a survey had been completed. The matter had been sent to the Provincial Disaster Management Authority and orders issued for immediate compensation.
The government also said it had replaced the Gwadar Development Authority director general, the deputy commissioner of Gwadar and the assistant commissioner of Pasni with “capable individuals”.
It maintained that orders had been issued for strict implementation of quota for disabled people.
It further said the Kantani point had been completely opened for transport and distribution of oil and essentials.
Mir Ziaullah Langau, the provincial adviser on home and tribal affairs, said at a news conference that the protesters had a list of 19 demands, 16 of which had been accepted by the government.
On the remaining complaints, the adviser said Maulana Rehman had recently admitted during a meeting that illegal fishing by trawlers had declined but at the same time, he feared a surge in the activity if protesters ended their demonstration.
The adviser said he had told the JI leader that he was not responsible for it.
He further elaborated that he had told the Maulana that confiscated boats and vehicles did not fall under the provincial government’s jurisdiction.
On the handing over of border management from the FC to the civil administration, Lagau said the authorities were working on it.
Addressing a news conference in Lahore, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the premier wanted to address the issues of Balochistan on a priority basis.
“The prime minister has taken notice of the demands of the hard working fishermen of Gwadar and has directed to take strict action against illegal fishing,” he added.
(With input from agencies)
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