Pakistan-China Relation: What is tension between Pakistan and China?

by Zauqi Farooqi
Pakistan-China Relation: What is tension between Pakistan and China?

The situation is gradually becoming normal in the Gwadar area of Balochistan province in Pakistan. The Home Minister of the province Mir Zia Ullah Lango is claiming the same. He has shared several videos on his Twitter courtesy of his claim.

But even now, about one and a half dozen people of ‘Haq do Tehreek’ have been arrested and sent to jail and the head of the movement, Maulana Hidayat ur Rahman, is currently underground. On December 25, Security personnel conducted an operation against the people sitting on the Dharma under Haq Do Tehreek and many people were arrested.

The people of Balochistan were sitting on a dharna under the leadership of Maulana Hidayat ur Rahman since October 27 last year for their demands. A large number of them were women. Even in the year 2021 in November, the local people in Balochistan protested their demands under the leadership of Maulana Hidayat ur Rehman. After 32 days of protests, there was an agreement between the government and the protesters. He named it ‘Haq Do Tehreek’.

Maulana Hidayat ur Rehman says that the government did not fulfil the promises made in 2021, due to which he had to hit the streets again in October 2022. Although the Balochistan government says that they have fulfilled its promises. Provincial Home Minister Mir Zia Ullah Longo issued a video statement saying that there are many demands, which are related to the provincial government of Sindh and the central government which is beyond their jurisdiction.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a collection of infrastructure projects worth $46 billion. China has invested in the development of Pakistan’s infrastructure (roads, railways, energy projects) and strengthened its friendship with Pakistan under its 13th five-year development plan.

What is the root of the dispute?

Shahzada Zulfiqar, who has seen this movement very closely, says that this movement is completely the voice of the local people because it is the issue of their daily bread. It is the only source of income for the people of this area and their access to the sea is becoming difficult due to the CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor).

Apart from this, the owners of big trawlers from Karachi come to Gwadar to catch fish illegally, due to which the income of the local people is decreasing. The local people have neither modern machines nor modern technology, so their business has come to a standstill in front of big trawlers.

Why did the police forcefully end the protest?

The protesters were sitting on a belief since October 27, but the security forces took action on December 25 at two-three in the night. Till December 24, the government was saying that talks with the protesters were going on, but in the next few hours, why was the force used against the protest?

According to Shahzada Zulfikar, both sides are equally responsible for the situation reaching here. According to him, the government did not fulfil the promises made during the end of the last Dharma for almost a year. This time too, as long as he was sitting peacefully, the administration did not take any care of him, but as soon as he started protesting near the Gwadar port and blocked the expressway, the government immediately swung into action.

Who is Maulana Hidayat ur Rehman?

According to Mohammad Rizwan, he has not seen any such protest in Balochistan to date. So who is Maulana Hidayat ur Rehman, on whose one call thousands of Balochistan people come out on the streets?

According to Prince Zulfikar, Maulana Hidayat comes from a poor fisherman family. He is associated with the religious organization Jamaat-e-Islami and he got his education from his Madras. Maulana Hidayat ur Rehman, 42, is currently the general secretary of Jamaat-e-Islami’s Balochistan province.

Maulana Hidayat ur Rehman has the support of the army?

Balochistan nationalist organizations allege that Maulana’s movement is completely political and he is using people for his political gains. There is another allegation about Maulana that he has the support of the Pakistani Establishment (Army) which used Maulana to reduce the influence of the Balochistan Nationalist Organization.

According to Shahzada Zulfikar, this movement is completely a people’s movement and some people say that, but there is no proof that Maulana has the support of the establishment. According to him, only a few women participate in the rally of the biggest political party, but in this demonstration, two to three thousand women were demonstrating on the road, which can be a bigger proof of a movement being a mass movement. Maulana’s supporters won about 80 per cent of seats in the recently held civic elections and it is expected that Maulana’s supporters will participate in the provincial and general elections to be held this year.

Its relationship with China and CPEC

Some people say that Chinese ships have also become involved in fishing and due to this, the livelihood of the fishermen of Gwadar is in danger. But Dr Moazzam Khan completely dismisses it. He said that according to the 1986 law, the use of trawling fishing is completely banned in Balochistan and since 2005 not a single Chinese vessel has entered Balochistan.

According to him, in October 2020, a dozen Chinese trawlers came inside, using the Pakistani flag but they did not get permission. According to Dr Moazzam, the local fishermen are very happy because of CPEKE as they will get a higher price for their fish. According to a study by Stockholm University, by the year 2030, China will need an additional 18 million tonnes of seafood, and to meet its requirement, China will be looking for far-flung sources.

Will further expand the fish trade

China is developing the Gwadar port and has invested billions of dollars, so will these incidents don’t affect China? According to Shahzad Zulfikar, he had met Maulana Hidayat ur Rehman four-five days ago and asked him what was his opinion on China.

Shahzad Zulfiqar says that Maulana had clearly said that his movement is neither against China nor that he has any problem with Chinese projects. Maulana also wants the Chinese project to improve the life of the people of Gwadar and Balochistan.

But the problem is that till now the common people are not seeing any special benefit from that project. Shahzad Zulfiqar says that on Tuesday itself, China opened a vocational training Hub there, where local youth will be trained and then sent to China and given higher training.

According to a report in Dawn newspaper, China’s consul Chao Lijian, while giving his reaction to the protests, said that Maulana Hidayat ur Rehman and his associates have met Chinese officials in Karachi and Islamabad. The Chinese spokesperson said, “We have been assured that the Gwadar agitation has nothing to do with CPEC, but a very in-depth study shows that these demonstrations have links with CPEC.”

What is CPEC?

CPEC is an economic corridor of about 3,000 Kilometers from Kashgar in western China to Gwadar port in Pakistan. It reaches the ancient port of Gwadar through many areas of the Himalayas, Pakistan-administered Kashmir, plains and deserts. On this route, China is building many projects, including road and rail networks, and power plants by spending billions of rupees.

About 62 billion dollars are being spent on this. CPEC is a part of China’s OBOR (One Belt and Road) project that connects China to Asia and Europe. China will take care of Gwadar port for 40 years. The Gwadar port is strategically located close to the Arabian and Persian Gulfs and the Strait of Hormuz, through which 40 per cent of the world’s oil passes. For China, the port of Gwadar is the gateway to the oil-rich Middle East, and Central and South Asia.

What could happen next?

If Maulana remains adamant on his demands and does not compromise with the government, then his movement will gain more strength, but if he compromises, Hussain Wadala, who is currently second in command in the organization, can become the leader of this movement and he will take it forward.

Shahzad Zulfikar says that if the government acted with some understanding and fulfilled the legitimate demands of the local people, then Maulana Hidayat ur Rahman himself would become irrelevant and his movement would be weakened. According to Mohammad Kazim, if the movement continues and turns violent later on, it will certainly affect CPEC as well.

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