Protests have begun once again in Gwadar against the arrest of Haq Do Tehreek (HDT) chief Maulana Hidayatur Rehman that took place in mid-January.
The situation in the town has remained calm thus far but protests simmered again when section-144 was lifted. A demonstration by women wearing burqas calling for Maulana Hidayat’s release was witnessed on Monday. Maasi Zainab, the female face of the Gwadar agitation, has captivated the nation’s attention for more than a year.
She claims that the HDT leader was imprisoned without cause. Maasi Zainab told Dawn, “He is being punished for speaking out against the injustice meted out to the people of Gwadar.”
She said, “Our fishermen were not being allowed to go out to the sea due to security considerations. Families had to go without a square meal for days together. But after the protests led by Maulana Hidayat, the authorities provided a little relief to fishermen. Now, we are able to make ends meet.”
According to Zaini, as she is more often known, the Maulana has given the people of Gwadar a voice after they were mostly neglected by the authorities when they drew out an uplift plan for this port town.
Zargul Baloch, an HDT member, is another vociferous female in this situation. She was a key figure in organising the women’s march.
She bemoans the state’s neglect of providing for its people’s basic requirements, such as access to water, electricity, healthcare, and education.
“The unlawful trawling, which depletes entire fish supplies and leaves nothing for our fishermen, has been the most concerning trend for us. We now have some hope thanks to Maulana Hidayatur Rehman,” the woman said.
“The people of Gwadar, women included, have come out in his support ever since he is in jail for giving voices to our grievances,” she added.
Hundreds of women participated in the rally, led by HDT leader Hussain Wadela and senator Mushtaq Ahmed. The marchers moved along Gwadar’s main streets, including Marine Road, which is close to the coastline. They also brought up other problems, such as the matter of the missing.
Sardar Abdul Rehman Khetran, who was recently detained on an allegation of murdering two boys and one girl, was released days after his detention, according to every female activist Dawn spoke to. But the Maulana had been imprisoned for more than two months, they regretted.
Another woman who took part in the rally, Faiza, said, “I joined the rally because there seems to be no end to the misery of my Baloch brothers. The HDT chief has given us the courage to stand up for our rights at all costs.”
Notably, Maulana Hidayatur Rehman was arrested earlier this year, on January 13, in Gwadar after dodging the police for about two weeks, Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reported.
According to Dawn newspaper, Rehman led month-long demonstrations in Gwadar and was wanted by the Gwadar police in several cases, including the murder of a policeman.
Rehman was arrested from the court where he had arrived to surrender, along with two other activists, Nasibullah Nusherwani and Hassan Murad.
Gwadar Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Najeebullah Pandrani said that FIRs were registered against Rehman and other activists under different sections of the Pakistan Penal Code and Anti-terrorism Act.
Lawyers protested against the police action, saying the HDT chief was arrested before appearing in court to surrender.
The arrest before Rehman’s appearance in the court was against the law, said Gwadar District Bar Association President Meraj Ali, Dawn newspaper reported.
According to Ali, the HDT chief arrived to surrender and apply for interim bail and the arrest was akin to denying him his right to seek bail.
Calling the police action “contempt of court”, Ali requested the district court to take notice of the arrest, reported Dawn newspaper.