The Gwadar port, which will be developed as a military base, already has a significant number of men from the PLAN Marine Corps, sources tell The Sunday Guardian.

 

NEW DELHI: Under pressure from China, which is worried about the safety of its men and machine stationed at the strategic Gwadar port, Pakistan has started erecting a wall of barbed fencing around Gwadar city. This, when completed, will seal off the heart of Gwadar city, leaving only one entry point and one exit point for the city’s residents.

The Gwadar port, located on the coast of Arabian Sea in the Balochistan province, is being used by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and will be developed as a military base in the coming years. A “significant” number of men from the People’s Liberation Army Navy Marine Corps are already deployed at the port, local sources told The Sunday Guardian.

Sources said that the fencing, which will be completed within a month, is being done from a fund of Pakistani Rs 1,475.9 million, which has been allotted by the Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives for “Gwadar Safe City Project Phase-I”.

Sources said that the entire area from Coastal Highway to Zero Point Gwadar is to be closed off with fencing. The fencing starts from Pishukan village, passes the Balochistan Broadway Road, and Gwadar Airport, thus encircling all the villages that lie in between. Once completed, a local source said, it will turn Gwadar into an open prison.

Local Gwadar-based sources, including government officials, who spoke to The Sunday Guardian, said that these barbed fences that are approximately 10 feet in height, will, in the first phase, cover an area of around 30 sq km, and will have close to 600 surveillance cameras at suitable distances to ensure that anyone coming near the fence or trying to enter the city, apart from those authorized entry, is spotted and taken down.

Pakistan came under increased pressure from China to increase safety measures around the city following the May 2019 Pearl Continental hotel attack, which sits on the “Koh e Batil” hill overlooking the Gwadar port.

Members of Balochistan freedom groups had stormed the highly guarded hotel on 11 May, which at the time was frequented only by senior Chinese and Pakistani officials who were engaged in the CPEC projects. In the firefight, which lasted for several hours, eight people, including three hotel infiltrators, were killed. Sources said that of the three attackers, two had entered the city through sea route.

This incident had massively irked the Chinese leadership, which had questioned the capabilities of the Pakistan government—which has already raised and deployed a special force of 15,000 men named “Special Security Division” (SSD) comprising 9,000 Pakistan Army soldiers and 6,000 para-military forces personnel to guard Chinese assets in the Balochistan region at the cost of Pakistani Rs 0.5 billion—to protect the Chinese from the Baloch freedom fighters, who, despite numbering in thousands and armed with mostly rudimentary weapons, have been able to target CPEC projects at regular intervals.

Locals, who spoke to The Sunday Guardian, quoting official sources, said that in the coming few years, Chinese and Punjabis will be settled in the region so as to bring a demographic change and reduce the ethnic Baloch to a minority.

“Deputy Commissioner of Gwadar, Major (retd) Abdul Kabir Khan has been telling us that this fencing is being done to protect the local Baloch. Protection from whom? The truth is that securing Gwadar city is the first step to bring in a demographic change in the region so that ‘outsiders’ can feel safe and start settling here. As per local officials, only outsiders will be allowed to stay in these fenced regions in the coming years, with the locals being issued hourly permits to enter the city,” a Gwadar-based junior level government official said.

Naseem Baloch, Organiser of the Baloch National Movement (BNM) Diaspora Committee, told The Sunday Guardian that the local Baloch living in Gwadar believe that by fencing Gwadar, the Pakistan Army was planning to carry out demographic changes. “The life of an ordinary Baloch is very hard in the region. There are police check posts every 200 metres where the locals are humiliated and assaulted for no reason. When the fencing comes up, it will become very difficult for the Baloch to step out or get into Gwadar.”