Gwadar district, with its 600 kilometres long coastline, was part of the Gulf state of Muscat till 1958. In that year Pakistan bought Gwadar from Muscat under an agreement which was signed by the then prime minister Feroz Khan Noon. In fact, parts of the fort of the Sultan of Muscat still stand in Gwadar and are used by the local law-enforcement personnel. At the same time, the district continues to have close ties with the Gulf state: Gwadar residents enjoy dual nationality and a large number of them serve in the Muscat army.
In recent times the district has been in the news for the deep-sea port that has been built there. The third one in the country, the Gwadar port was built with financial assistance from China and proved to be quite controversial: it was and is opposed by the Baloch nationalists who fear that the government will bring in non-Baloch Pakistanis to work at the port, turning the Baloch majority into a minority in the area.
Nonetheless, with the construction of the port, the sleepy fishing town of Gwadar now boasts of many modern facilities, including a five-star hotel. And if the activity at the port picks up, the district is predicted to become the hub of economic and international trade activity.
Zubeida Jalal, who was education minister until 2003, had won this seat in the 2002 elections as an independent candidate. However, she had faced a stiff fight from the BNMs Dr Abdul Malik Baloch amid allegations of rigging in her favour. In the ensuing February 18 poll race, there will be no BNM as it has become NP after the merger of BNP Hayee and Balochistan National Democratic Party. Though the PPP has fielded Mohammad Haider Baloch, the PMLN Abdul Qadeer and the MMA Mufti Ahtishamul Haq Asiabadi for this Kech-cum-Gwadar seat, they are not expected to cause much problem for Jalal who is again in the arena as an independent candidate. She has a fair chance of winning in the absence of nationalists.