Dispelling fears expressed by a section of Gwadar residents, the Balochistan governor and chief minister have done well to reassure the local people that the building of a new port in Gwadar will create better job opportunities and other means of income for them.
The rush of investors eager to purchase land in the upcoming port city in recent months has led a section of the local population to believe that they would be dislodged and dislocated in order to make room for the development projects associated with the new port and short-changed in the process.
Gwadar fish harbour has long been one of the remotest outposts offering little in terms of livelihood or even basic amenities. The construction of a deep sea port there will considerably enhance the prospects of a better life for the impoverished people of the Mekran region, who would find new job opportunities opening up, and a civic infrastructure built to meet the demands of a modern port. The economic activity thus generated will naturally prove beneficial for the generally poor local people.
That said, the fear of dislocation expressed by certain sections is not totally unfounded. Since the construction of the port began last year, some real estate racketeers and land mafia operatives from Karachi, Lahore and other big cities have done a roaring business buying land from the local people at nominal prices and selling it off to the moneyed people and multinationals at exorbitant rates.
As work progresses on the construction of the port and the infrastructure, land grabbers are making quick bucks at the expense of the local, mostly small, landowners using pressure tactics and influence with the officials forcing the owners to sell their land and relocate to the desert outside the city.
The Balochistan government would do well to look into the matter so as not to give a handful of greedy realtors a carte blanche to rip off and harass an already deprived and impoverished people.