The successful retrocession of Gwadar to Pakistan, especially in view of its geoeconomic and geostrategic positioning, underscores the commendable vision and efficiency of Pakistan’s foreign policy actors in its early years. However, the continued failure to benefit from the dividends of retrocession and the poor socio-economic condition of the people of Gwadar speaks volumes of the governance crisis the country is still faced with.
This was the crux of a webinar titled, ‘63 Years of Gwadar’s Retrocession to Pakistan: Achievements, Prospects and Challenges,’ which was organized by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), Islamabad in collaboration with the National Institute of Maritime Affairs (NIMA) and the Center for Strategic and Contemporary Research (CSCR).
Senator Kauda Babar Baloch, a legislator from Gwadar, appreciated the recent development initiatives under the southern Balochistan package of the federal government, allocating a huge amount of funds for the southern districts of Balochistan, especially for Gwadar’s development. He also lauded the finalization of the power purchase agreement with a Chinese firm for setting up a coal power plant in the emerging port city that suffers a severe power crisis. The finalization of transshipment regulations last year for the first time in the country’s history will help realize the true potential of Gwadar, he said.
Regarding Gwadar’s retrocession to Pakistan on 8th September 1958, Senator Baloch said his elders and the people of Gwadar rejoiced becoming a part of Pakistan and immensely loved their homeland. It was the will of the people of Gwadar, which provided moral justification and support to the governments in the early years of Pakistan to deal with the British and Omani governments effectively, he asserted.
Addressing the webinar as a keynote speaker earlier, Vice Admiral Iftikhar Ahmad Rao (retd) informed that he narrated in detail in his forthcoming book, Gwatar Bay to Sir Creek, a work based on archival research that how Pakistan began negotiations over the transfer of Gwadar from Oman to Pakistan right after its independence in 1947. He said the British government, which played an intermediary role to facilitate negotiations, kept delaying the handover of Gwadar to Pakistan till the ascendance of Feroz Khan Noon as the Prime Minister of Pakistan, who went as far as threatening to take Gwadar by force.
He also revealed that Gwadar Development Plan was already in place even before the retrocession took place in 1958. Despite this, Gwadar has not received the due attention of policymakers in the country over the decades, he said.
Highlighting various development projects underway in the Rs. 600 billion southern Balochistan package, Commodore Jawad Akhtar said that Rs. 23 billion were allocated for roads and infrastructure development in the city. Work on a 300-MW coal power plant was set to begin this year, he said, adding that many development projects were being planned under public-private partnerships. He regretted that the previous governments showed apathy toward the socio-economic development in the districts with the lowest Human Development Index (HDI) scores, including Gwadar. However, he assured the people of Gwadar, many development projects regarding skills development, digital connectivity, food security, electricity generation, and water provision were already launched and were expected to yield long-term benefits for them.
Commodore (retd) Dr. Anjum Sarfraz shed light on the potential of Gwadar as a transshipment hub in the region. He commented that the Gwadar port was built to handle transit trade of China, Afghanistan, and Central Asian Republics (CARs) and serve as a transshipment hub. Nonetheless, the port operation progress of Gwadar has remained surprisingly slow despite the fact that Gwadar port as a transshipment hub has the capacity to outmatch regional ports provided appropriate steps are taken, he added.
Lamenting upon the lack of housing facilities in Gwadar, Zaigham M. Rizvi argued that the housing scheme promised to be built in 2006 is yet to be completed. He emphasized the need for ensuring ease of doing business for local and foreign investors and expediting work on development projects so that the basic facilities like water and electricity were provided at the doorstep in the port city.
Chairman IPS Khalid Rahman termed the retrocession of Gwadar as a foreign policy success story of Pakistan that needs to be highlighted time and again.
He opined that the governance crisis had been continuing in Pakistan since the early years of its foundation and Gwadar was no exception to it. However, the new development projects under the Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives were expected to address the plight of the local population of Gwadar.
Vice-Chairman IPS Ambassador (retd) Syed Abrar Hussain, Ambassador (retd) Naghmana Alamgir Hashmi, former Pakistan ambassador to China, Dr. Kanwar M. Javed Iqbal senior researcher from NIMA, and Farzana Yaqoob, executive director, Centre for Asian-African Studies (CAAS) also spoke on the occasion.
Source: Pro Pakistani