A regular job at the business centre of the free zone in Gwadar Port, southwestern Pakistan, once a small backward fishing village, has brought a great change in Younis Ghulam Qadir’s life by lifting him from a fishing compound to a five-star working atmosphere.

Qadir, a 22-year-old former fisherman, looked very happy and satisfied with his job now as a housekeeper at the Gwadar Free Zone business centre because a regular and handsome monthly salary has helped his 10-member family solve financial issues.

The young housekeeper is the eldest child among a labourer father’s six daughters and two sons. He told Xinhua News Agency in Gwadar that he had to quit his studies and started work at the age of 16 as a fisherman to help earn food for family.

“I was much worried about my future and family. We couldn’t afford food, medicine and education even after I worked whole day out for 300 rupees (around two U.S. dollars),” said the young housekeeper, adding that he couldn’t find a job as the town has been seeing an extremely high level of unemployment.

In January 2019, on the advice of friends, the hopeless young man sent an application to the business centre from where he received a quick call from Chinese staff for an interview and he got the job instantly to join dozens of other local people working there.

Qadir considers the China-Pakistan Economic Center (CPEC) as a blessing for bringing fast growth and a number of jobs to Gwadar. “Gwadar is developing so fast that I have never dreamed about it. Chinese have done quick miracles by completing several projects, including roads, schools, and health centres for locals,” said Qadir, who is also learning the Chinese language after his working hours.

Gwadar, the small fishing town located near the Arabian Sea and a vital part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), has witnessed a great change during the last five years with a number of completed projects, including the first phase of the free zone, the arrival of cargo ships regularly and a water desalination plant.

In late March, the small town welcomed its new international airport, the expected second largest airport of the country. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan broke ground for the construction. The new airport would establish direct links between the town and the outside world.

The prime minister said that CPEC’s main target is to bring people oriented developments. And CPEC has transformed Gwadar into an energetic town from a lethargic village.

Abu Bakar, a local fisherman who has been in the business for 25 years, told Xinhua that development projects and economic activities in Gwadar are giving direct monetary benefits to locals, especially by increasing demand and prices of their fish by several times.

“In the past, our fish was sold at the rate of around 40 rupees per kg but now it can be sold by up to 200 rupees (around 1.5 U.S. dollar) per kg,” said the 45-year-old fisherman, adding that activation of the Gwadar Port and construction of the superhighway linking Gwadar with southern Port city Karachi have eased up their fish supplies and exports.

Bakar is assured that once the under-construction East Bay Expressway, linking the new Gwadar international airport and the free zone with the country’s national highway network, is completed, their fish business would flourish further.

The six-lane 19-km long expressway, funded by the Chinese government with an interest-free loan, is expected to be completed by October 2020 and would ensure smooth logistic transportation of import, export and transit goods, Pakistan’s Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform said.

On the sidelines of the Gwadar Expo 2019, Pakistan’s Minister for Planning, Development and Reform Khusro Bukhtiar said that the China-Pakistan partnership accords top priority to the development of Gwadar along with investors-friendly regulations.

The minister said Gwadar is being made as a modern smart Port city to meet international standards and that it would be made a green, clean and environmentally-friendly city.

Zohaib Sheikh, a captain who regularly visits Gwadar for cargo on his ship, said that Gwadar Port became operational very quickly with professional staff and standardised facilities on the ground.

“I have visited several Ports around the world, but Gwadar is the most eco-friendly and beautiful. When I enter Gwadar Port’s waters, I feel happy and breathe fresh,” said the Indian captain, who predicted that Gwadar has a great potential to become one of the best and busy Ports.

Observing the fast development in commercial sectors as well as social sectors, Qadir and Bakar both visualised that Gwadar would become a modern Port city where they will live a happy life with a prosperous future.