Saturday, November 20, 2021
Tuesday, November 09, 2021
|Gwadar Port in Pakistan occupied Balochistan|
The political debacle of the ambitious Gwadar International Port built by the Chinese is yet to be fully operational in Pakistan. It was found that the challenge was unbearable and that the threat perception has increased in the Balochistan province.
The security threat posed by Baloch separatists and armed nationalists demanding the independence of Balochistan has caused a ripple of fear for the future of the Gwadar Port and its connectivity with Central Asia.
Recently, “all-weather friends” China and Pakistan signed a precursor deal to develop the Karachi coastline at the cost of $3.5 billion -- what is being called another debt trap. China’s shift from Gwadar to Karachi has prompted Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan to dub the “jackpot” project “a revolution” in his Tweet to develop Karachi’s coast.
China puts strategy over investment and ignores profits. The Chinese Communist Party’s leadership has shifted from high-risk lending to hedging its bets. China’s President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project seems to have hit a speed bump after reaching Gwadar. In fact, BRI is losing steam. Malaysia has cancelled projects worth $11.58bn. Similarly, Kazakhstan shook their head to say no to a $1.5bn investment, followed by Bolivia, which has turned down projects worth $1bn.
Some countries admit that they have fallen into a debt trap and the mega infrastructure is being colonized, like the $306.7m Hambantota International Port in Sri Lanka built by China in November 2010.
In 2016, a 70% stake of the port was leased to China Merchants Port Holdings Company Limited (CM Port) for 99 years for $1.12bn. The lease has recently been questioned by Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who now wants the port back.
Nearly 35% of the projects are struggling with corruption and protests, while several other countries are contemplating quitting BRI debt trap projects. Many countries where China has offered ambitious BRI proposals could not contemplate where and when they were going to fall into a debt trap. Pakistan is one of them. They know where the trap is. The Sunni Muslim majority nation knows they are falling into China’s debt trap. Despite the debt trap, a strong pro-Chinese lobby promotes Chinese megaprojects, while the politicians have to swallow the Chinese red pills.
The $62bn Gwadar project envisages linking with the persecuted Uyghur Muslims in East Turkistan (now Xinjiang Province) of China, and is being built through disputed territory in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan-administered Kashmir, and Balochistan. Balochistan was once an independent country, before Pakistan’s independence in 1947 and its forcible occupation in March 1948.
Recently, China is extremely concerned about the safety and security of its personnel engaged in construction in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects, including the Karakoram Highway linking with Gwadar.
Gwadar has been leased to China for 43 years and the prospect of the Chinese navy converting the port as a strategic base will invite greater security issues, as China has a grand plan to expand its maritime presence in the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman -- a major global oil trade route.
The United States and its allies in the Gulf reckon China’s hegemony in the Gulf will be a security concern. America thinks the presence of the Chinese navy will provide military backup to Iran’s naval patrol in the Persian Gulf, from yet another Chinese-built Chabahar port in Iran, not far from Gwadar.
First published in the Dhaka Tribune, 9 November 2021
Saleem Samad, is an independent journalist, media rights defender, and recipient of the Ashoka Fellowship and Hellman-Hammett Award. He can be reached at <email@example.com>; Twitter @saleemsamad
Tuesday, November 02, 2021
Law enforcement’s lack of response during the Cumilla riots lead to greater escalation
Dilip Das, 62, was a commercial washerman for the Sadar Hospital and other clinics in Cumilla. For nearly 30 years, he laundered hospital bed sheets and linens.
When pedestrians rushed Dilip to the emergency department of the hospital, he was not attended to. His family shifted him to the 250-bed government hospital, where again he was left unattended. For six hours, he did not get medical care in Cumilla hospitals. His condition deteriorated as his forehead wound was bleeding.
Dilip’s wife Rupa Das did not expect to hear the tragic news in her life. The sky had fallen on her head. She was not aware that rioters had gone berserk in the city.
At Dhaka Medical College Hospital, the surgeons and physicians struggled for eight days to treat the patient who had gone into a coma from a fatal brain haemorrhage. His daughter Priya Rani Das, 25, said the brain surgeons had twice operated upon him in Dhaka.
She also said that he was struck with full force with a metal bar by Islamic vigilantes, which badly fractured his forehead skull, and he sank into a coma. She dashed from her house at Thana Road, accompanied by Ruma Das, sister of Dilip.
The armed vigilantes had taken positions in the streets and the intersection became dangerous for Hindus to venture out. She and Ruma were desperate to reach the hospital.
The vigilantes, mostly teenagers with machetes, bamboo sticks, and metal bars, threatened them to cut them into pieces. They yelled at her -- how dare they desecrate the Holy Quran?
Ruma told the youths, “You can kill us, but we need to go to the hospital for the emergency treatment of my elder brother.” Rupa had no clue about what had happened at Nanua Dighirpar Puja mandap in the morning when all hell had been let loose in Cumilla.
On that ominous day, Dilip went to Rajeshwari temple in Manoharpur to clean the premises as a volunteer. He told his wife not to cook for him as he would have prasad (religious offering of food) at the temple. At noon, he was walking towards Darogabari Mazar, a tomb of a Sufi saint, to clean the premises. He was caught in the violence near the temple. The vigilantes caught him and, with a metal bar, fractured his skull.
The residents of the city had not experienced such rage in 50 years, since the genocidal campaign by marauding the Pakistan military in March 1971.
While Dilip was fighting for his life in the hospital at Dhaka, the neighbours offered milad and dua mehfil (prayers) in at least two mosques and several Muslim homes for his early recovery. The neighbours mourned his death.
He was adored by thousands for his volunteerism at temples, mosques, and the shrines of Sufi saints. He had respect for all religions, but had given his life to the brutalities of Islamic vigilantes with political clout.
When the mobs and mobsters roamed the towns in Cumilla and Chowmuhani, Noakhali for several hours, the police were squarely blamed for the slow response.
Scores of survivors, Durga Puja committee members, and priests of temples claimed to have called the civil administration, police stations, 999 emergency police helpline, and even ruling Awami League leaders, but unfortunately, nobody responded.
Members of the Human Rights Alliance Bangladesh, Research and Empowerment Organization (REO), and Nipironer Birudhey Shahbag, a sister organization of Gonojagaron Mancho, visited the place and met Achintya Das Tito, secretary of the Cumilla Mahanagar (city) Puja Committee. He was an eyewitness to the desecration of the Nanua Dighirpar Puja. He had frantically called the police chief, the police station, civil administration, and Awami League leaders for help to stop the mayhem.
Their conspicuous silence was questioned by the media, civil society, rights groups, and Hindu leaders.
Interestingly, at one end of the large pond, a stone’s throw away was the home of Cumilla City Mayor Monirul Haque Sakku and, on the other corner, lived ruling party MP AQM Bahauddin Bahar. None came forward for decisive action.
“The desired help never came. It came only then when everything was lost to sectarian violence,” he lamented.
First published in the Dhaka Tribune, 2 November 2021
Saleem Samad is an independent journalist, media rights defender, recipient of Ashoka Fellowship and Hellman-Hammett Award. He could be reached at <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Twitter @saleemsamad