Gwadar’s real estate boom busts
By Malik Siraj Akbar
GWADAR: Land prices in Gwadar district – where a $298 million warm water port was inaugurated in March with the financial and technical assistance of China – have fallen to abysmal levels in recent months after a real estate boom that began in 2002.
A local real estate agent, who requested not to be named, informs that a plot in Gwadar’s premier Jinnah Avenue, worth Rs 10.5 million some four years ago, was now hard to sell for Rs 4 million. Similarly, plots in the prestigious Singar Housing Society, once priced at Rs 8 million each, would not find a buyer even for Rs 1 million, he says.
“It seems a dream how the prices in Gwadar once soared overnight four years ago and we all became extremely rich,” he recalls, adding, “Now Gwadar is the same old deserted fishermen’s town. The local people sold their land, became millionaires and lavishly squandered all their money. Now, many of those short-time millionaires are once again seen riding donkey-carts to eek out a living.”
Yasir Bakshi, the Gwadar Real Estate Association secretary general, cites multiple reasons for this abrupt and staggering decline in the real estate business in Gwadar. He says a chain of events in general and the ouster of former president Pervez Musharraf – who apparently had personal commitment towards the completion of the port – in particular caused a blow to property business in Gwadar.
Boom: “I remember the prices of lands costing Rs 200,000 in Gwadar reached Rs 2 million within 24 hours in 2002. With the official media campaign about the construction of Gwadar Port, people from Dubai, Muscat, Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore rushed to Gwadar and bought land at extremely high prices,” recalls Yasir, adding the most coveted lands in Gwadar were those in the Singar Housing Society, New Town and Gwadar Industrial Estate.
Yasir’s younger brother Ghoram Bakshi, who runs the popular Bakshi Hotel in Gwadar, recollected that too many outsiders came to his hotel in 2002 to be accommodated. “Many of them begged to be only allowed to park their cars inside the hotel and were willing to sleep anywhere: on the ground, in the garden or on a water tank,” said Ghoram.
At the inauguration of Gwadar Port by Musharraf on March 23, 2008, many in Gwadar believed their little town would transform into a new mega city like Dubai. However, Pos Glory, which harboured at the port on March 15 and departed on March 24 was the first and so far the only cargo vessel that docked at Gwadar.
Decline: “Since that vessel arrived, the government has done nothing to ensure the regular arrival of cargo at Gwadar Port. The investors have begun to realize that Gwadar Port is unlikely to succeed in future due to the government’s lack of seriousness,” adds Ghoram.
A local journalist told Daily Times that while the dysfunctional port was one of the reasons for the loss of investors’ faith in Gwadar, other factors included massive land scams, worsening security situation, Baloch nationalist resistance and absence of infrastructure.
“Things began to go out of control in August 2006 with the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti which caused a lot of hatred among the local Baloch people against all outsiders, particularly the Punjabis,” said the journalist.
Many real estate agencies based in the major cities allegedly sold plots to their customers that were owned by other people. On their arrival to see the purchased land, many of the buyers were stunned to know that their plots’ actual owner was not the real estate agent with whom they had brokered a deal.
“Plots of land worth Rs 100,000 each were sold by unregistered non-local real estate agents for Rs 3 million each to the rich people in other provinces without showing them the site or valid documents,” says a local property dealer. “Today, no outsider is willing to come to a place where he is hated, cheated and sees no signs of development at all,” he added.
However, many local Baloch property deals are glad that property business in Gwadar has gone down to such an astounding extent because they had already sold their lands to Pashtuns from Karachi, Quetta and the NWFP. They fear that once Gwadar emerges as a city of business and economic development, they would see the ownership of the land in the hands of those whom they view as ‘outsiders’.