People of Gwadar cannot be marginalised under ambitious development

KARACHI: The development of Gwadar may very well be a priority under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), but the people residing in the city cannot be ignored. This was the theme of a session on ‘Urban Design of Gwadar’ held on Thursday where participants discussed the way forward as Pakistan prepares for its single largest infrastructure plan under CPEC.

Naveed Iftikhar, former governance specialist, Economic Reforms Unit, said indigenous people are facing hardships, and need to be incorporated in the development model.

Opponents of Gwadar Port, CPEC are enemies of state: OPBU founder

The talk was based on research on Gwadar’s governance, and funded by the International Growth Centre. It was conducted by a team of Pakistani and Chinese academics as well as researchers, led by Iftikhar, a PhD candidate in urban affairs and public policy at the University of Delaware.  Iftikhar said the case of startup cities was similar to other startups, where the failure rate remains high.

“China ventured into three such startup cities and only one is considered a success. It is reasonably good to have one of three cities labelled as a success. Pakistan is betting on only one such city,” he said during his presentation.

According to Iftikhar, Rotterdam is considered as the most successful port city in the world.

The success of the Chinese startup city was also attributed to the fact that it was near a bigger city. On the other hand, Malaysia and South Korea have had bitter experiences of establishing startup cities. His remarks come amid reports that residents in Gwadar have been asked to relocate and move away from the traditional fishing areas.

“It is Pakistan’s psyche that they don’t want to see poor people living in the path of development,” he said.  A citizen of Gwadar, Fida Hussain, also a teacher by profession, was also present on the occasion. He said that Gwadar port, as a part of CPEC, has affected the source of income of indigenous people.

“Now there’s no place to fish. Further on, the coastline marks the territory of other tribes and our people cannot fish in Pasni or Jiwani areas,” he added.

“The people of Gwadar are upset,” he said.

CPEC starts bearing fruit for people

Among suggestions given for improvement included Gwadar needing to develop an economic development strategy. The government must buy bulk land on government-determined rates to curb speculation, and share the dividend with the local population, including a respectable place for housing within the city.

“Their fishing business as well as well as the integration with the new CPEC economy needs to be fostered,” Iftikhar said.

“Gwadar Development Authority’s mandate and financial capability should be strengthened and eventually the city should develop as a sub-provincial region with all powers to carry out development,” Iftihkar said.

Meanwhile, he defended Pakistan for agreeing with China to receive 9% of the gross revenues from port operations and said that this is in line with international benchmarks. 

Published in The Express Tribune, July 6th, 2018.

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Planning, Development and Reform Secretary Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui has said that CPEC is a long-term national project

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