Authorities in Balochistan restored Thursday cellular Internet service in Gwadar port city after a 10-day shutdown in the wake of clashes between protesters and police personnel.
The 3G and 4G mobile services were restored with the return of normalcy in the city. The law and order situation has been brought under complete control, reports from the region said.
A day earlier Amnesty International South Asia had expressed concern over internet shutdown while also urging officials to lift the ban on public gatherings in Gwadar.
“The Internet ban and emergency law will serve as a springboard for further crackdown on people’s fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, right to personal security and freedom from arbitrary detention,” the rights organization had said in a statement on Tuesday.
The protests under the banner of Haq Do Tehreek [Gwadar Right Movement] first started on August 19, 2021, with the local population demanding better rights and livelihood. The movement saw tens of thousands of women, men, and young children marching on the main roads demanding their rights.
The first episode of the protest ended in December 2021 with an agreement between the protesters and the government. A fresh wave started in October 2022 with a two-month sit-in that culminated in clashes in December.
The protesters led by Maulana Hidayatur Rehman have been demanding not only a ban on fishing trawlers but also freedom of movement in the area.
They have discussed the following key demands with the government.
- Trade along Pakistan-Iran border should be given a legal status
- The issue of missing persons should be resolved and missing persons must be presented in courts
- Citizens should not be humiliated under the pretext of comprehensive checking at check posts
In December 2021, Rehman led a the first protest for 32 days, after which the government negotiated with him and assured him that his demands would be met.
However, the government did not make good on its promises, and hence the Haq Do Tehreek started the protest again with thousands of women and children rallying in Gwadar to show solidarity with Rehman.
The government ignored protests and did not ensure the rights of the people of Gwadar forcing the protestors to stage a sit-in outside the main entrance to the port, say the Haq Do Tehreek leaders.
Led by Rehman, in November the demonstrators blocked the Gwadar East Bay Expressway, the key artery connecting the port with Pakistan’s main highway network.
The expressway, airport, and port itself are all part of the $50 billion Pakistan component of the Belt and Road called the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Police arrested leaders of Haq Do Tehreek
On December 23, 2022, Balochistan’s home minister Ziaullah Langau and PHE advisor Lala Rashid Dashti and other administrative heads tried to persuade Rehman by holding talks, but Maulana did not meet them.
Following the government’s failure to achieve any breakthrough in talks with the movement’s head, the police and other security agencies arrested 27 people, including Haq Do Tehreek leader Hussain Wadala, on December 25, 2022, and moved them to an unknown location which intensified the protest.
The supporters of the movement blocked Coastal Highway after the arrest of their leaders. Following the clashes between the protesters and security personnel the provincial government suspended mobile phone and internet services in Gwadar.