The “graduating student” on Eastbay Expressway
In September 2019, Rashid Iqbal stepped on the soil of Gwadar. Coming all the way south from Gilgit Baltistan, he was going to be involved in a project that was no less significant in terms of connectivity than the roads he had taken throughout his journey south--the Eastbay Expressway that will connect the Gwadar Port with the Makran Coastal Highway and further with national highways through the 2,281 acres free trade zone of Gwadar Port.
Hailing from Hunza, GB which shares the boundary with China, he grew up listening to the stories of Karakorum Highway and the close cooperation between the two brotherly countries, but had never dreamed of working for such a joint venture one day.
“The day I started this career coincided with the school opening day for some students. Somehow I stroke a chord with them, because there must be many things for me to learn and difficulties to conquer, too”, Rashid Iqbal told Gwadar Pro reporter.
As a procurement coordinator, he can be seen in a wide range of tasks where communication is needed, including office and agreements management, daily and monthly reporting, quantity confirmation, invoices processing, fleet operation supervision, warehouse management, manager assistance, and even occasional technical support.
Rashid Iqbal on work site [Photo provided to Gwadar Pro]
“It is all about connectivity. The project is to connect places, and I shuttle between offices to connect people”, he summarized.
When he was just about to adapt to the endless strings of trivial matters, bigger challenges loomed.
In less than half a year since his entry into the construction company, the Covid-19 pandemic broke out. Due to restrictions for the visitors as part of the anti-pandemic protocol, they had to go outside the office’s area to serve each visitor separately.
“It was an extraordinary period of time. But fortunately, our company took immediate actions. When the first piece of news of Covid-19 spread, we started to wear masks, use sanitizers and maintain social distancing. Meetings and training were provided to each individual in implementing the standard protocols. Printed brochures, pamphlets, and visual graphics were handed out for us to better understand the situation. Due to such efforts, till now our offices and working area are safe from COVID-19”, Rashid recalled.
On 20 August 2021, A terrorist attack on the convoy of the Chinese staff at the project site happened. Lucky, the staff remained safe. But the natural fear of uncertainties triggered by the incident was not abated hence. “Every individual thought of safety first, so did my company”. After such an incident happened, strict security measures were taken. Again, he started to coordinate with security departments for the arrangement of all the necessary documents for timely and proper management of fleet and personnel coming to the project site.
“There were calls from my family and friends to return home. Though it was a tough decision, I decided not to leave the project unless I’m no longer needed here, because I trust the security measures and feel bonded to my colleagues and the project”, Rashid said.
Eastbay Expressway [Photo provided to Gwadar Pro]
The Eastbay Expressway project has created about two thousand jobs in the past three years. In 2021, Rahid was conferred the Outstanding Staff of CPEC Projects award.
As countdown has started with a few days left to inaugurate this mega project, Rashid is increasingly anticipating with each passing day. “It is a prolific and glamorous journey. Waiting for the inauguration ceremony is like waiting for a graduation ceremony. But unlike graduation, this is not an end, it is a milestone and the beginning of a new stage”.