Abid Majeed Khawar
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.. . .
–Dickens, Charles; “A Tale of Two Cities”.
Dickens analogy of two great cities of Paris and London in the backdrop of medieval Europe’s most dramatic turn of events when tremors of French revolution ran amok in latter and aftermath of Industrial/Glorious revolution smothered Monarchy in former; in his most acclaimed master piece “A Tale of two Cities”. How fittingly, however paradoxical it may seem, the aforementioned analogy of the two cities in question can be exemplified with the duo of cities; Dubai City and “City of Gawadar”.
The coastal hinterland of Baluchistan, Gawadar as stands today is the scarcely populated dusty sea-side town saves with road-side unkempt shacks for journey-worn truckers completed with although fairly modern yet dilapidated sea-port facility. Dubai in contrast, the heartland of Arab Emirates, where now skyscrappers sprout like mushrooms not to mention the materialization of world tallest in the midst, where the sea-port has become the nerve-centre of international trade, where tourists from all over the world swarm its streets to see how magnificently a city has been carved out of dust, out of nothing; literally. Not exactly an “English channel” in between, Dubai and Gawadar are hardly one hour aerial flight apart yet the contrast is overwhelming.
What used to be a small fishing village, Gawadar first came into global spot-light when USSR disintegrated ending Cold war thus access to hitherto inaccessible untapped reservoirs of Central Asian States suddenly seemed plausible. The connecting dots between Gilgit and Gawadar located at the two respective extremities of North and South of the country shaped into a “trade-corridor” when China’s long time cherished yet forlorn dream of accessing warm waters and beyond with least distances to cover and minimum costs on logistics became an absolute reality. Earlier, many successive governments paid a little heed to the immense potential this shanty little town hold for Pakistan but it was eventually in 2003, that the then government finally came out of torpor and conceived a grand plan same on the lines of Dubai. Overnight, the quiet and dissolute dunes of Gawadar suddenly roared into life. A coastal highway was engineered to connect Gawadar with rest of Pakistan as well as the state-of-the-art port-facility was going to be established. Investors thronged Gawadar as millions of dollars were poured to boast real estate to new heights hitherto never seen. Multitude of Construction Companies fought hard to lay their hands on plethora of projects only to materialize a city-port that would leave only country’s capital to match with. In short, the progress wheel was in full throttle and very possibility seemed plausible that Dubai would find its worthy contemporary across the extension of Hormuz strait same as London is paired with Paris across the channel since centuries now.
But irony struck and struck hard when relentless reign of terror, corruption-stricken governance that buckled down under the foreign pressure and reeling economy burst that bubble of brief yet grand plan with a big bang and when smoke cleared Gawadar which destined to be a grand city-port turned into a forlorn idea. Save the up-gradation of port and coastal highway the whole matter was put on back burner. The vicious and unabated reign of terror that now holds the whole country at sway be it ongoing Karachi carnage in the name of ethnicity, the so-called sectarian frenzy of killing spree in Quetta and Gilgit or be it blatant drone attacks that plays havoc with many innocent lives is all but many facets of single plan; to destabilize Pakistan from within and without. When economy is reeling and national GDP is at the lowest ebb, when law and order is in shambles and national integrity is at stake than materializing dream projects like Gawadar becomes a whimsical and forlorn idea. Therefore irrefutable is the fact that such said projects can never be envisaged and implemented in isolation rather a meticulously holistic effort is crucial and indispensable.