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History of Gwadar: Past, Present and Future

Gwadar map

Although a few years back the word Gwadar was not known to many but the past few years have changed the fact. Gwadar is one of the most spoke about cities of the world. Gwadar is a port city in the South-Western Cost of the province of Balochistan in Pakistan. The Gwadar city is located on the shores of Arabian Sea. The city is almost 700 KM away from Karachi (the largest city of Pakistan). Another amazing geographic fact linked with Gwadar is that it is near the border of Iran and is situated to the east of Persian Gulf- which is right opposite to Oman. In the past, from 1783 to 1958, the Gwadar port was in possession of Oman.

For most of the history, Gwadar remained a small size settlement where the economy was majorly based on fishing. The strategic value of the location was accepted in 1954 when it was pointed out as a perfect site to be used as a deepwater port by “US Geological Survey”. The potential of the Gawdar port remained unrecognized during different governments of Pakistan till 2001. In the year 2001, the construction of the initial phase of Gawadar was initiated.

General Pervaiz Musharraf inaugurated the first phase in the year 2007 with a net cost of $248 million.  However, even after the construction, the port remained under-utilized for a number of reasons including security concerns, lack of investment, and the failure of management of the government in transferring the land as per commitment to the operator of the port which was “Port of Singapore Authority

By the time Pakistan reached 2015, the government of Pakistan announced a patch up China to develop a mega project of CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) which was worth $46 billion. The project is believed to a part of China’s One Belt One Road program. “China’s Xi in Pakistan to cement huge infrastructure projects, submarine sales”. Gwadar is the backbone of the One Belt One Road project and about 1.153 billion dollars are said to be invested in the city as a part of the project CPEC (Wikipedia). The aim of this project is to link the Northern side of Pakistan with the Western side of China through the seaport.

The Origin

Just like other parts of Balochistan, the Gwadar city also had some ancient roots that are not clearly approached yet. However, the city shows inhibition linked with the bronze age of the settlement. According to the studies, for a period the city was under the regime of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. The history claims that this area was conquered by the founder of the Persian Empire known as “Cyrus the Great.”

During his journey back to home, the Alexander the Great stepped their feet in the areas which are now known to us as Balochistan. The then consisted of inhabited and Dry Mountains. After the collapse of Empire of Alexander the area ruled by Seleucus Nicator who was one of the generals of Alexander. Later during 303BCE, the region came under the rule of Mauryan after the Seleucus made peace with Emperor Chandragupta.

The Territory of Gwadar:

After a millennium, the Arab-Muslims invade the region and in next century there were the areas was ruled by different powers. While for the next two centuries, the area was ruled by local tribes of Balochistan.  From 1863 to 1879 the area of Gwadar remained to headquarter of the British Assistant Political agent and remained a Fortnightly port for British Indian Steamship Navigation Company. It also worked as the port for telegraph and post office. Later in the 1950s, the port was headed over to Pakistan.

Gwadar Port of Pakistan

Soon after the independence of Pakistan the Balochistan acceded to Pakistan and was allocated as a separate district. At that time Gwadar was not a part of Balochistan. Later in the year 1958, the Gwadar port and adjacent areas were handed over to Pakistan by Muscat. By then it was given the status of Tehsil of Balochistan. Later in the year 1977, the Makran District was upgraded and divided into two divisions named as district Turbat, Gwadar and Panjgur.

September 8, 1958, was that date when Pakistan purchased the Gwadar enclave from Oman for 5.5 billion PKR. The agreement signed stated two important clauses; the first one stated that Balochistan will offer an army recruitment platform for Oman as a result of which Balochis will establish a major part of Omani forces and secondly the resources of Gwadar will be developed in future.

In the year 1993, the Government of Pakistan conceived the plan to develop Gwadar as a major port city and connect it with a rail and highway network. Officially the construction of Gwadar started on March 2002 phase one of which was completed in March 2007.  The port was inaugurated on 20th of March the same year.

Developments in Gwadar:

From the year 2002 to 2007 Gwadar underwent some major developments. In 2002 the NHA (Pakistan National Highway Authority) started production of the 653 Km- long Makran Coastal Highway, this highway was meant to link Karachi with Gwadar via Ormara and Pansi moving on to linking it with all other highways in Pakistan. The project was completed in 2004. In the year 2003, the Gwadar Development Authority started planning and development of the Gwadar for which an authority with the name  “Industrial Estate Development of Gwadar” was formulated to deal with the industrial activities. The three currently functional multipurpose berths of the deep-sea-port have a capacity to handle carriers of 30,000 deadweight tonnage (DWT) ). The construction started in the year 2004. By the year 2006, the Gwadar Development Authority conceived established and adopted the 50-year plan for the City of Gwadar. Later in 2007, the Civil Aviation Authority of Pakistan acquired a huge area to construct a greenfield airport that was named as the New Gwadar International Airport (Wikipedia).

The Gwadar Port:

Since a long time, China has an interest in Gwadar Port. In 2013 the China Overseas Port Holdings Limited assimilated the Gwadar Port. The Gwadar port is very important for China as about 60% of the oil in China comes from the Persian Gulf. This oil is transported by the Ships that travel for about 16,000 KM in the time duration of 2 to 3 months. This journey is full of risks including; bad weather, pirates, or political rivals, along with many others. It is also risky for the only commercial port of China that is located in the Shanghai. Gwadar will help to reduce the risks and distance limiting it to 50000 Km and can also serve China around the year.

China has remained fully involved in designing the project. It has provided about 80% of the cost of constructing the port. More than 500 Chinese workers are working on the port, around the clock.

China is keenly focused on setting up the Gwadar port because they find at advantageous in terms of saving time and security of import and exports. In this regard, China has paid 360 million USD to Pakistan for the expansion and the up gradation of the import and export processing around the year. The transportation will be done by Karakoram Highway China to Pakistan. The Government of Pakistan is highly committed to providing a secure base to China in shape of Gwadar. This will help Pakistan to secure the Gwadar port and to strengthen the Pak-China relationship.

The Culture of Gwadar:

The location and history of Gwadar have given it a unique yet interesting blend of cultures. The Arabic influence on the city can clearly be seen because of the strong impact of Omani era as well as the closeness with the Arabian Peninsula. The legacy os Omani can also be witnessed in the local population of which you can trace the lineage to Afro-Arab and the Zanj Slaves. These people came and settled in the area in the Omani rules. You can also find some remains of building constructed in Omani era.

The Geographic Position of Gwadar in Relation to Oman

Topography:

Gwadar is located on the sandy and narrow strip, with a natural hammerhead-shaped point linked with a coastline of Makran.  The points of the port make two perfect yet naturally curved bays on each side of the point.

The North side of the city and the Gwadar Promontory is flat and barren.  The Koh-e-Mehndi (the white clay) is a prominent exception that is raised sharply from the plans to the Northern-East of Gwadar. Followed by the mega earthquake in 2013, a small island was formed which is located almost 2 KM off the Coast (Wikipedia).

The Population:

The population of the city has increased for about 85,000 as reported in the year 2014. Majority of the people living in Gwadar have their roots linked with the Balochistan.

The Climate of Gwadar:

Gwadar has extreme hot and deserted climate with very little precipitation and massive variations in winter and summer temperature. The ocean had a great influence on the temperature that is lower in summer and higher in winter. On average the temperature in June remains 31 to 31°C while in winters it fluctuates between 18 to 19°C. The uniformity of the temperature is distinctive of the Coastal Makran region.

Also, the wind moving down by the plateau of Balochistan give a cooling influence, otherwise the winter remains pleasant. Winters are shorter as compare to summer. The Gwadar is located out of the monsoon belt. For this reason, it occasionally receives the monsoon rains in the summer season. While in winters there is heavy rainfall due to Western Disturbance. On average the annual rainfall is about 3 inches.

Administration and Neighborhood of Gwadar

Gwadar serves as headquarter for Gwadar tehsil and Gwadr District. While the Gwadar tehsil is sub divided into 5 different union counsels on the basis of administration named; Gwadar Central, South Gwadar, North Gwadar, Pishukan, Sorbandar.

  •  The Gwadar Central in sub-divided into different parts named as; Gazrawan, Komagri, Mohallah Zahoor Shah, Sohrabi, Saleh Muhammad and Usmania.
  •  The South Gwadar is Divided into; Kamari, Mohallah Karim Bakhsh, Mohallah Shahdu Band, Mullah Band, Murad Bakhsh, Sarabi, Sheikh Umar and Tobagh.
  •  The North Gwadar is sub-divided into; Lal Baksh, Mohalla Baloch, Mohalla Mir Abdul Ghafoor and Mujahid.

The Strategic Value of Gwadar

The Gwadar port can help China to work with around the clock active port with security and time efficiency. It will also offer China an attending post to observe the Indian naval activities around the Gulf of Aden, the Persian Gulf, South Asia and Central Asia. It means that it will cover the following regions; Central Asian republics, Caspian Region, Iran and Afghanistan. Among all these Caspian Sea is the most potential region in terms of monetary approaches. At the same time, it offers vital positioning to the area geographically. Iran is one of those countries that are supporting the development of the Port of Gwadar.

Gwadar- The Free Zone

In the past, the economy of Gwadar has mostly remained dependent on fishing. However, with the passage of time and in recent times, the economy of Gwadar has undergone some major transformation resulting in the transformation is a small fishing village in the major Port city of Pakistan. It has helped in enhancing the communication links between all parts of Pakistan.  The 1400 Km Trans-Afghan Gas Pipeline also known as the TAP will be linked from Turkmenistan to Gwadar port. It is believed to be a comprehensive project that will boost the Natural gas dealers of Turkmen to reach the market of South Asia that will lead to many financial benefits for the region overall.

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