By Muhammad Waqas Saleem

From the window of a five-star hotel at Koh-I-Bateel (mountain of Bateel) if one looks at the Gwadar city, port and the surrounding sea, the infinite gaze of eye compels to imagine of unending and ravaging wave of economic opportunities destined to bless the region. On the contrary, an indigenous person residing downhill in the city is more unclear both about his present and future due to a host of reasons. Despite the fact, that the Government of Pakistan is terming it as a game and fate changer, hope of better region on the pretext of fortunes tied with China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC); world economies are showing interest, the nervousness of common man is still not easing out.

Building on that the government is speaking very high, world economies are showing interest and majority major world cities are port cities, this can be rightly prophesized that Gwadar is bracing to transform from a fisherman’s town to a mega city of the world.

However, keeping in context, the magnitude and importance of the project, the government is still reluctant to share the plan and modalities of economic activities associated with this project. The official website of the planning commission offers everything that is there in political rhetoric but nothing technical. Broadcasts are full with praise and magnanimity of the project but where are the details and specifics of the project?

Lack of information in this age of information and communication is frustrating. Though it’s not recommended in economics to predict about future economic activity of a port city but people at the helm of affairs in our country have pushed us all to rely on this prediction/projection tricks. It seems that ancient tradition of future prediction is getting pulse again.

By following the stream of secrecy, the government is pushing this whole activity into a gray area and for no reason creating issues out of it. The controversy that emerged on Western/Eastern route is enough to substantiate the claim and gratify the needs of all those trying to sabotage this mega development project. The controversy was successfully translated and manifested into Punjabis once again overwhelming the rights of smaller ethnicities.

Every Pakistani generally and people residing in Gwadar are enthusiastic and excited about the riches ordained to bless them all but at the same time perplexed due to lack of information. It is more like a plane on its taxiway but the direction of flight unknown to passengers.

The plight of common man living in Gwadar is more critical because of the fear of erosion of their social, economic and political organizations. This mega development project is expected to deeply penetrate into the social fabric of fishermen and their associates. This transition is distressing and can lead to violence as Trotsky once said that transition begets violence.

This CPEC is expected to revolutionize infrastructure, real-estate, maritime and fisheries in the Gwadar and region at large. Since this is a fishermen town with almost everybody directly or indirectly associated with fishing and its allied industries. The indigenous people are so well versed in boating that even big ships are manufactured without preliminary sketches. Such kind of extraordinary skill needs to be harnessed and capacity of the locals should be enhanced to bring them at par with the trends of modern mechanized world.

Local people are compensated for their relocation and majority of them are selling their allocated lands immediately. The capacity of indigenous people should be built to an extent that they can compete with the investment and real estate realities of the contemporary world.

All the social actions aimed at changing the social life of indigenous people should be in accordance with the answers taken from within the communities. Such kinds of steps with participatory approach will not only enhance the ownership on the part of local people, in fact, it would gear up the pace of development. It will help to overcome the fears generating within the locals subsequently inculcating welcoming attitude for all coming from outside. This will help to slide down the security costs as well as locals would act as natural defense against all trying to destabilize or hinder the growth going on in the region.

It is expected that government should pass on necessary information regarding how development is planned.   And the compensations, being offered to the locals, should be aimed at sustaining the development with knowledge. This will help to enhance the ownership by the local people.

In the current world, when Pakistan is busy weeding out terrorism from its length and breadth and economy has started to show signs of revival, this kind of project should be dealt with great care by inducing culture sensitive approach so that it prospers with zeal beyond expectation and substantiate the claim of modern world as a ‘civilized world’.

Author Bio: Muhammad Waqas Saleem is a lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad. 

Editor’s Note: The views expressed in this article are solely of the writer.