Chinese trawlers usurp the livelihoods of Pakistani fishermen
The fate of this backward region had once looked promising – as China had promised Pakistan a new era of development through its flagship project – the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). However, over time, it is evident that Chinese loans have only exacerbated Islamabad’s debt problem and Pakistan is on the way to becoming a vassal state of Beijing.
“The elite ruling institutions – both the Pakistani army and the government – are so beholden to their Chinese masters that they are not even ready to protect the rights of their own people. The local people of Gwadar have been one of the worst victims of this massive looting by Chinese masters and their Pakistani puppets – both on land and at sea, ”said a senior intelligence agency officer.
Gwadar – as the center of CPEC – and once billed as the next “Dubai” was supposed to usher in the economic boom for all of Balochistan.
The mirage has always proved elusive, as huge tracts of land have been acquired by the federal government from the local population.
Much of this land has been illegally transferred for private gain – including the Defense Housing Authority – the “biggest land grabber” – as described by the Lahore High Court.
While this Chinese development model has already deprived the local population of their housing, the next strike is on their livelihoods.
At least two million people are linked to the fishing trade in Gwadar.
Their livelihood depends on daily fishing. The intrusion of Chinese trawlers created a fear of deprivation in their minds.
The threat from Chinese trawlers, previously limited to Southeast Asia, has now started to spread to the Indian Ocean region.
The Chinese trawler fleet of “factory ships” – which process and package fish for sale in international markets, has entered Pakistan’s territorial waters, resulting in intensive fishing and reduced catches for local fishermen.
As a video of Chinese trawlers by local Gwadar fishermen went viral on social media, Ali Haider Zaidi, Pakistan’s merchant marine minister tweeted: “Deep sea trawling is prohibited in Pakistani waters. The PMSA is closely monitoring the trawler and vessels spotted near Gwadar. ordered an investigation. Strong action will be taken. Protecting our local fishermen is our top priority. “
However, with no further action on the ground, the local population started the protests to fight for their rights.
The inhabitants fear the exploitation of the city’s natural resources by China, thus rebelling against several development projects.
Gwadar fisherman’s chief Khuda-i-Dad Waju said fishermen in Gwadar were already facing a violation of fishing limits by trawlers from Sindh and now that the federal government has allowed foreign trawlers this would deprive the fishermen of Gwadar of their livelihood.
Protesters said Gwadar fishermen left their fishing grounds for the construction of Gwadar port in the hope that their economic conditions would improve once the port was ready, but now Imran Khan’s government had issued licenses to Chinese trawlers, which severely affected their livelihoods.
With Chinese fleets of government-subsidized vessels roaming distant waters in search of seafood and China’s ever-growing influence, this intrusion has seriously affected the local population of Gwadar.
Without the support of the federal or provisional government, the fight for these fishermen is still long.
“This form of Chinese neo-colonialism, masked by CPEC promises, is expected to have a profound negative impact on Pakistan’s already struggling poor people,” the officer said.
(Sumit Kumar Singh can be contacted at [email protected])
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