History of Gwadar

Ancient History

Inhabitation of Gwadar, like most areas of Balochistan, appears to be ancient. The area shows inhabitation as early as the bronze age with settlements around some of the area’s oases. It is from this settlement pattern that word Makran, the original name of Balochistan, is derived. For a period, it was a region of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. It is believed to have been conquered by the founder of the Persian Empire, Cyrus the Great. The capital of the satrapy of Gedrosia was Pura, which is thought to have been located near the modern Bampūr, in Iranian Balochistan. During the homeward march of Alexander the Great, his admiral, Nearchus, led a fleet along the modern-day Makran coast and recorded that the area was dry, mountainous, and inhabited by the “Ichthyophagoi” (or “fish eaters”), an ancient Greek rendering of the ancient Persian phrase “Mahi khoran,” which has itself become the modern word “Makran”.After the collapse of Alexander’s empire the area was ruled by Seleucus Nicator, one of Alexander’s generals. The region then came under Mauryan rule around 303 BCE, after Seleucus made peace with Emperor Chandragupta and ceded the territory to the Mauryans.

Enclave of Gwadar

The region remained on the sidelines of history for a millennium until the Arab-Muslim army of Umar captured Makran in AD 643 and over the intervening (and nearly equivalent) amount of time the area was contested by various powers. This was then followed by almost two centuries of local rule by the various Baloch tribes. The city was visited by Ottoman Admiral Seydi Ali Reis in the 1550s and mentioned in his book Mirat ul Memalik (The Mirror of Countries), 1557.According to Seydi Ali Reis, the inhabitants of Gwadar were Baloch and their chief was Malik Jelaleddin, son of Malik Dinar.

British Indian Balochistan

In the 15th century the Portuguese conquered many parts of India and Oman. They planned to proceed with annexation of the coastal area of Makran. They attacked Gwadar under the leadership of Vasco de Gama, but under the supervision of Commander Mir Ismaheel Baloch, the Portuguese were defeated by the Baloch. A few times the Portuguese looted and set the coastal villages on fire, but they failed to capture Gwadar. Cannons of the Portuguese army were found lying near the Central Jail of Gwadar, heirless. The grave of Mir Ismaheel Baloch is situated near the Mountain of Batal Gwadar, constructed by Mir Ismaheel Baloch himself during life. He died in 873 Hijri.

In 1783, the Khan of Kalat Mir Noori Naseer Khan Baloch granted suzerainty over Gwadar to Taimur Sultan, the defeated ruler of Muscat.When the sultan subsequently retook Muscat, he was to continue his rule in Gwadar by appointing a wali (or “governor”). This wali was then ordered to subjugate the nearby coastal town of Chah Bahar (now in Iran). The Gwadar fort was built during Omani rule, whilst telegraph lines were later extended into the town courtesy of the British. In the middle of the 18th century, Mir Noori Naseer Khan Baloch captured Gwadar and its surrounding areas after defeating the Gichki Baloch tribe and included it in the Kalat Khanate. However, realizing that maintaining control of the area will be difficult without the support of the Gichkis, Mir Nasir entered into an agreement with the local Gichki Chief, which allowed the Gichkis to maintain administrative control of the area, in return for furnishing half the collected revenues to Kalat, this arrangement continued till 1783. When Saiad Sultan fell out with his brother, the ruler of Muscat, and asked for help, Mir Noori Naseer Khan handed over Gwadar, as part of his share of revenues, to Saiad Sultan for his maintenance with the understanding that the area be returned to Kalat, when Saiad Sultan acquires the throne. Saiad Sultan ascended to the throne of Muscat in 1797 but never returned Gwadar enclave to Kalat. The ensuing struggle between the heirs of the Sultan and Khan of Kalat for possession of Gwadar, allowed the British to intervene. The British after extracting concessions from the Sultan for the use of the area facilitated Muscat to retain Gwadar. Later on, the British claimed that the area was granted to the Sultan by Mir Nasir, however, local accounts and the declassified documents of that time challenge this claim. From 1863 to 1879 Gwadar was the headquarters of a British Assistant Political Agent. Gwadar was a fortnightly port of call for the British India Steamship Navigation Company’s steamers and included a combined Post & Telegraph Office.Sultan was the sovereign of Gwadar until negotiations were held with the government of Pakistan in the 1950s.

Post-1958 as part of Pakistan

Gwadar Port

In 1948, Makran acceded to Pakistan and was made a district – Gwadar then, was not included in Makran. In 1958, Gwadar and its surrounding areas were reverted by Maskat to Pakistan. It was given the status of a Tahsil of Makran district. It was Feroz Khan Noon’s regime when accession of Gwadar took place and it is propagated that Akbar Bugti, as minister of state for defence, was part of negotiations. On July 1, 1977, Makran District was upgraded into a division and was divided into three districts of Turbat (Kech since 1994–95), Panjgur and Gwadar. On 8 September 1958, Pakistan purchased the Gwadar enclave from Oman for 5.5 billion Rupees (equivalent to US$1.1 billion in 2015 dollars). The Agreement had two important clauses: (1) All Balochistan would form a military recruitment source for Oman; as a result, Balochis constitute a major part of Omani forces, and (2) the resources of Gwadar would be further developed. Most of the money for the purchase came from donations, with Prince Karim Agha Khan, the reigning Aga Khan, is the greatest contributor, while the remainder was paid through tax revenue. At the time, Gwadar was a small and underdeveloped fishing village with a population of a few thousand. The Pakistani government integrated Gwadar into Balochistan province on 1 July 1977 as the district headquarters of the newly formed Gwadar District. In 1993, the Government of Pakistan formally conceived the plan to develop Gwadar into a major port city with a deep-sea port and to connect it with Pakistan’s highway and rail networks. On 22 March 2002, the Government of Pakistan began construction of Gwadar Port, a modern deep-sea port, Phase I of which was completed in March 2007. Gwadar Port was inaugurated on 20 March 2007.

Gwadar underwent major development from 2002 to 2007. In 2002, Pakistan’s National Highway Authority (NHA) began construction of the 653 km-long Makran Coastal Highway linking Gwadar with Karachi via Pasni and Ormara and onwards with the rest of the National Highways of Pakistan, which was completed in 2004. In 2003, the Gwadar Development Authority was established to oversee the planning and development of Gwadar and Gwadar Industrial Estate Development Authority was established to promote industrial activities in mega port city of Gwadar. In 2004, Pakistan’s NHA began construction of the 820-km long M8 motorway linking Gwadar with Ratodero in Sindh province via Turbat, Hoshab, Awaran and Khuzdar and onwards with the rest of the Motorways of Pakistan. In 2006, the Gwadar Development Authority conceived, developed and adopted a 50-year Master Plan for Gwadar. In 2007, the Civil Aviation Authority of Pakistan acquired 4,300 acres (17 km2) to construct a new greenfield airport, the New Gwadar International Airport 6,000 acres (24 km2), at an estimated cost of Rs. 7.5 billion.