Gwadar, China and Baloch apprehensions

Published: September 8, 2013
The writer was a member of the senate from 2003 to 2008 and of the National Assembly from 1997 to 1999. He tweets @Senator_Baloch

The writer was a member of the senate from 2003 to 2008 and of the National Assembly from 1997 to 1999. He tweets @Senator_Baloch

China and Japan are sparring over five tiny islands, the Diaoyu Islands — three rocks covering a mere seven square kilometres in the East China Sea. To the rest of the world, the dispute over the tiny, remote islands seems just that — tiny and remote. However, for economic giants like China and Japan, these minute islands are sacred and they consider them part of their respective national identities. Just like these islands in the East China Sea are hallowed territory for Japan and China, the Baloch coast and the strategically located Gwadar Port are also deeply tied to Baloch history and identity. The Baloch national and emotional attachment to Gwadar dates back to the eighth century, when Hammal Jeayand, the hero of the armed resistance against the Portuguese occupation of Gwadar, fought a heroic war against the usurpers. His legendary poetry is an integral part of Baloch literature.

Insensitive to Baloch feelings, Pakistan’s political and military elite has committed blunders and treated Balochistan as just an administrative part of the country rather than a culturally sensitive and nationally conscious political entity. The previous PPP regime, without taking the consent of the Baloch people and without any transparent process, transferred control of the Gwadar Port to the China Overseas Port Holding Company (COPHC). The most bizarre thing during the process was that the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) transferred an already invalid contract to the COPHC. Contradictory to the stay order issued by the Supreme Court, barring the PSA from transferring immovable property of the Gwadar Port Authority to another party, Islamabad hastily handed over Gwadar to China in February 2013.

Moreover, along with violation of national laws, the International Monetary Fund’s Revised Code of Good Practices on Fiscal Transparency was also disregarded by giving away a strategic jewel to the Chinese without due process. Not a single detail of the contract was released to the media, neither was it published on the Gwadar Port Authority’s website.

A senior official of the Balochistan government has said that despite repeated requests, the federal government has refused to share details of the contract concerning the lease period, use of the port, management mechanism, cost and revenue sharing and the most important aspect, the security arrangements. There is grave concern that a large-scale Chinese presence will further militarise the Balochistan coast and the Makran region, where a non-Baloch security apparatus, i.e., the FC and the Coast Guards, has massive presence, causing immense unrest. The politically oppressed Baloch fear that China’s presence in Gwadar will subsequently increase tensions and the Baloch will ultimately suffer as a result.

Pakistan’s major political parties do not seem to be concerned about the humanitarian crisis in Balochistan. Instead of following a proper conflict resolution process, offering constitutional guarantees, addressing human rights violations and healing Baloch wounds that Nawaz Sharif promised while in opposition, the government is now following a business approach towards the province. Balochistan is being presented to the outside world to gain economic advantages.

There are apprehensions among the Baloch that during Nawaz Sharif’s recent visit to China, the government may have offered the copper-gold deposit at Reko Diq, as well as Gwadar, to the Chinese, in exchange for investment in the power sector and other assorted projects, which benefit people outside Balochistan. The PML-N government at the centre and in Balochistan must realise that if its deals with the outside world without all stakeholders on board, it will ignite an already volatile situation.

If the tiny Diaoyu Islands are a matter of pride and principle for China and Japan, Gwadar is also a matter of life and death for the Baloch. Any unilateral decision by Islamabad concerning the fate of Gwadar will be opposed by the Baloch at all levels.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 9th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (20)

  • Nadia Ali
    Sep 8, 2013 - 11:26PM

    Wonderful eye opening piece Senator. Prime Minister should stop immediately all deals being made on Balochistan with China. Before coming to power he said he would stand by Baloch people but it seems NS is repeating history once again.


  • Rumormonger
    Sep 8, 2013 - 11:40PM

    Gwadar was not part of Balochistan when Pakistan cam into being. Pakistan govt bought this place back from Oman for a heavy price, so it is a ownership of all Pakistan, just like Karachi.


  • Sohail
    Sep 8, 2013 - 11:52PM

    Mr. Baloch has raised very valid point that Port of Singapore Authority as a defaulter company can not transfer contract to China – and there is Supreme Court decision as well. I am a PTI supporter – I would like to see that PTI should do home work and raise such significant issues in the Parliament. Baloch are the main stakeholders – Gwadar belongs to them – and current provincial government is hapless and lacks courage and vision to highlight these issues because they are on mercy of PML (N) – PTI as a major political opposition must demonstrate some will to speak truth.


  • Raj - USA
    Sep 8, 2013 - 11:57PM

    Pakistan’s army elite and the Punjabi elite are the most unpatriotic. They gave away G-B to China out of fear for India. They gave away Gawadar for the same reasons. Earlier Punjab had annexed parts of Baluchistan to its territory. Baluch language is not taught in the schools but Chinese language is taught as a compulsory subject. The army is coward and wants to buy protection by giving away the country’s territory. Punjab does not care as the territory it is giving away does not belong to Punjab. The army elites were selling country’s nuclear technology to others and were pocketing the money. Pakistanis made lot of sacrifice for this technology and were proud of it, but the army elites were selling it for their personal gains. In the late 80’s senior officials of the army and air force were caught in USA trying to sell drugs that they had smuggled from Pakistan in Pakistan Air Force jet fighters. US agents knew that the fighter jets were carrying drugs but could not enter the jets due to diplomatic restraints. They lured the Army officials to bring out the drugs by posing as customers. These officers brought out some of the drugs to the woods of Washington and were arrested. They were later released as at that time US had good relations with Pakistan. The lower ranks of jawans are patriotic and are willing to sacrifice for their country but the higher echelons of the army are cowards and unpatriotic. Punjab does not care for the interests of other provinces and they just give away territory of other provinces. “Rob Peter and pay Paul” is what they do. This distrust of Punjab is the reason that Punjabi immigrants are targeted in Baluchistan and also the only reason why Kalabagh Dam could not materialize.


  • Asad Khan
    Sep 9, 2013 - 12:14AM

    China and Japan are sparring over five tiny islands, the Diaoyu Islands — three rocks covering a mere seven square kilometres in the East China Sea.

    The Ex Senator needs to read a bit history and used some rational before writing.

    The Diaoyu Island were snatched by JAPS in WWII and after defeat of JAPS by Allies, the USA instead giving it back to Mainland China put it into JAPS (all be it USA) control. So, for PRC the Island is a matter of Principle.

    The Gwadar district was purchased by the Fund of Sir Aga Khan. If anyone has a right on it then it should be Sig Agha Khan’s Ismaili Community.

    The problem of Ethnic Balochs are that they brag to much and do too little. Maybe due to their Nomandic nature. Gwadar district has got no Sardari system. And Ports & Shipping are federal subjects.

    PRC & Pak are not that naive that they would militarize the district, PRC did not even militarize the Hong Kong let alone Gwadar. Yes, Pak would make each and every cost to protect its territory. All agreements are crystal clear and can be obtained through SPD.

    Reko diq was discovered by non ethnic Baloch in 1978 & saved by a non ethnic Baloch in 2012 in ICSD. I can go on & on about development projects in Balochistan as well.

    Besides ethnic Balochs, Balochistan has Pashtuns, Sheedi, Gichkis, Hazara in a sizable strength. There is only a small section of ethnic Balochs who are misguided.

    It is now a different Pakistan and Balochistan.



  • Parvez
    Sep 9, 2013 - 12:17AM

    Not enough facts given or known on this subject to get a true picture.


  • Khurram Malik
    Sep 9, 2013 - 1:01AM

    On 18 September 1958 Gwadar officially became the part of Pakistan after it was sold by Oman for 3 Million US Dollars. In 1758 Khan of Kalat gave away this land to Taimur Sultan who was the Ruler of Oman that time. When Pakistan came into being Gwadar was the part of Oman Sultanate not of Balochistan.
    So Balochs did not have any Problem with Arab rule in Gwadar then??. Also why did the Baloch leaders did not asked Oman after the creation of Pakistan to give this land back to Balochistan??.

    Also Sir kindly revisit the History as Portugese attacked Gwadar in 1581 not in the 8th Century and at that time Malik Jelaleddin was the leader. Malik Dinar is another know name of that region,. There is no mention of any 8th Century expedition by Portugese and you can never find it in any histotry book at all.


  • Pakistani
    Sep 9, 2013 - 1:01AM

    Gwadar was bought by the Federal Govt of Pakistan and it should be classified as a federal territory and if you have problems with that you should take it out with the Khan of Kalat who had sold it off.
    Secondly Before India and Pakistan came into being the sub continent was divided into princely states over time they ceased to exist similarly the Baloch came into this area in the 11th century and not the 8th century also the portugeese came quite a lot after that please correct your history and balochistan does not belong to you or the baloch it belongs to pakistan and the pakistanis same is the case with SIndh, Punjab, Kpk, GB, and AJK. With time new identities and areas are forged please get over it and lets move on.


  • Nadir
    Sep 9, 2013 - 1:20AM

    China doesnt care two hoots about Gawadar. Paksitanis are day dreaming if they think that China is going to plow billions worth of commodities through it and upwards into Wester China.


  • Ahmad Sheikh
    Sep 9, 2013 - 1:25AM

    Senator Sanaullah Baloch has made some points that no one can take exception. Foremost being the transparency of the deal. Not only do we have to guard against a situation where for short term gains, even un-intentionally seeds of a new “East India Company” should not be planted and also ensure that our own political and commercial interests are primarily served through this deal. Chinese interests should never supersede our own interests. Good sense and practical policy dictates that first benefit of this economic opportunity must accrue to the local population and thereafter radiate outward. Unfortunately, in our system maximum benefit is taken by a narrow elite, Punjabi, Sindhi, Pathan and Baloch. The common Punjabi, Sindhi, Pathan and Baloch are undeniably exploited most by their own. The Baloch poor being the worst off at the hands of their own Baloch elite class. I being a non-Baloch but passionate Pakistani feel that Baloch elite classes have done the biggest disservice to the poor of their area and this clamour of Nationalists is just the pangs of pain felt by a small elite being elbowed out by the slowly grinding wheels of change bringing empowerment to the very people they have been lording over for too long. But I greatly appreciate and love to listen to the very eloquent and erudite Senator. Please keep writing these thought provoking articles


  • Maureen
    Sep 9, 2013 - 1:30AM

    Fantabulous ….. Pakistan must float international tenders with specific focus on human development in Baluchistan for Gwadar, Rekodiq, Saindak and other resources. Current arrangements hardly benefit Baloch – shady deals and arrangements only help elite to milk Balochistan.


  • Shahid Kinnare
    Sep 9, 2013 - 7:52AM

    Was Gwadar bought by Aga Khan’s money? Mr. Senator.


  • Nasir
    Sep 9, 2013 - 9:30AM

    Would Mr. Sanaullah Baloch care to discuss when and how Baloch leadership be happy? By independence guaranteed by the West or economic independence of Baluchistan and its people through trade? For which China has been our time tested partner in need of help.

    If Baloch leadership is so concerned about the people of Baluchistan they should invest in Education and healthcare of their people. And please correct some facts, Gawadar is in Makran Coast. Lasbela is another area in Baluchistan along with Makran Coast where people are not idiots and they know their history and culture very well compare to mainland Baluchistan where may tribes fight with each other on “ransom” money from non-Tribal Baloch!


  • Random Passerby
    Sep 9, 2013 - 12:47PM

    The Baloch national and emotional attachment to Gwadar dates back to the eighth century, when Hammal Jeayand, the hero of the armed resistance against the Portuguese occupation of Gwadar

    There were no Portuguese in the eight century, as Portugal as a Kingdom was established in the 12th century after the Moors were defeated, unless you are talking about the Hijri calendar. The Portuguese raided the coast of Balochistan and Oman in 15th Century AD. (Source:


  • ayesha
    Sep 9, 2013 - 12:48PM

    The National Party of Balochistan is part of the current govt set-up. So to say that PML-N decisions on Balochistan have no Baloch input is completely wrong.


  • Naveed Alam Khattak
    Sep 9, 2013 - 4:39PM

    Stop fooling the people of balochistan anymore…Recommend

  • csmann
    Sep 9, 2013 - 8:07PM

    The Pakistan leadership consider Pakistan , a de facto province of China;so what is the big deal about Gawadar.


  • Agnostic
    Sep 9, 2013 - 8:17PM

    At this rate, the Baloch senator can keep the gold mines and Gawadar port for his great grandchildren.


  • Rashid
    Sep 10, 2013 - 1:13PM

    Quite informative. The author raises valid questions too.


  • Sep 10, 2013 - 9:55PM

    Then why the coal blocks of Thar were not given to China for development.


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