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OBITUARY: BIJARANI — A HUMBLE TRIBAL CHIEF

February 02, 2018

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MIR Hazar Khan Bijarani with Benazir Bhutto in 2007.
MIR Hazar Khan Bijarani with Benazir Bhutto in 2007.

THE 72-year-old Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani was a humble and composed man. Despite being the chief of the Bijarani clan, he was unlike those who demonstrated tribal arrogance among people. He was a seasoned politician with refined literary taste.

He joined politics during the Z.A. Bhutto government though he was more interested in the civil service. According to his friend and former parliamentarian Jam Saifullah Dharejo, Mr Bijarani had requested Mr Bhutto to induct him into the civil service but the latter persuaded him to opt for politics to serve the masses as he had the vision.

Born on July 10, 1946 into a prominent political family of upper Sindh, Mr Bijarani completed his Bachelors from the National College, Karachi, and then did his LLB from the Sindh Muslim Law College and also Masters in Political Science.

He came from the area dominated by powerful Panhwars, Jakhranis, Sarkis, Sundranis, Banglanis and Khosos. The late Bijarani, who served as planning and development minister in the cabinet of Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, was liked by officials and bureaucrats who have the experience of working with him. Earlier, he had remained a senator as well as a member of the National Assembly. He was elected MPA in 2013 from PS-16 Jacobabad.

He had a wide range of interests as he was fond of riding, hunting, shooting, sightseeing, reading and music. “He was a sensible and the most articulate man I have ever come across in my life. I was inspired by him after having seen him as the youngest member of the Sindh cabinet in the 70s,” Mr Dharejo recalls.

PPP leader Benazir Bhutto appointed Mr Bijarani — who was then vice president of the Sindh chapter of the party — its acting president in the late 80s when Makhdoom Khaliquzzaman resigned from this position after developing differences with the party.

Mr Bijarani, however, later left the PPP to become a senator in 1988.

Earlier, on his return from the United States as a young man, Z.A. Bhutto inducted him as revenue minister in the Sindh cabinet at the end of 1973 when Qaim Ali Shah became MNA and got engaged in constitution drafting with other parliamentarians. “He was a nice man and it is shocking for me to hear about his death,” Mr Shah says.

Mr Bijarani was elected MNA from one of the two constituencies of Jacobabad in 1990 as an independent candidate. He didn’t take part in the 1993 elections and in 1997 became the only MNA of PPP-Shaheed Bhutto of which he was a member of central executive committee. He became defence production minister in 1997’s PML-N government formed after Nawaz Sharif obtained a massive mandate routing the PPP across Pakistan. Mr Bijarani’s brother Sher Mohammad Khan was also elected to a Sindh Assembly seat from Jacobabad as a PPP-SB candidate in 1997 polls.

After the Sharif government was toppled by Gen Pervez Musharraf, Mr Bijarani again joined the PPP and became MNA in 2002. He remained with the party till his death on Thursday.

He became MNA from one of the two National Assembly seats from Jacobabad i.e. NA-209 in 2002.

His son Shabbir Bijarani became district nazim of Jacobabad (until then the district had not been bifurcated by the Arbab Ghulam Rahim-led Sindh government) after defeating Sardar Muqeem Khoso when Gen Musharraf introduced the devolution system and held party-less local bodies elections in 2001.

Again Mr Bijarani won election from NA-209 in 2008 to become a federal minister for education in Yousuf Raza Gilani’s cabinet. His portfolio was changed to industries and production in a cabinet reshuffle. After Mr Gilani was convicted of not complying with the apex court’s directives to write a letter to the Swiss authorities and replaced by Raja Pervez Ashraf, Mr Bijarani became federal minister for inter-provincial coordination.

In the last general elections in 2013, Mr Bijarani was elected member of the Sindh Assembly from PS-16 Jacobabad and his son Shabbir Bijarani became MNA from the constituency his father had been elected twice previously. His provincial constituency covers areas in Jacobabad and Kashmore.

Mr Bijarani was considered a powerful minister in the Sindh cabinet and had refused to accept the portfolio of education with a powerful secretary Dr Fazlullah Pechuho, brother-in-law of PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari. His paternal nephew Mehboob Bijarani is chairman of Kandhkot-Kashmore district council.

Areas in upper Sindh are plagued by tribal feuds and the holding of jirgas — chaired by prominent figures as well as parliamentarians — is considered a normal practice there. Mr Bijarani was booked for presiding over a jirga under the directives of the Supreme Court in August 2006.

A five-member bench headed by then chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry had taken suo motu notice of a jirga in Jacobabad and ordered arrest of its 11 members, including then MNA Bijarani. The jirga had decided to hand over five minor girls to the family of a murdered man and imposed Rs1 million fine on both warring parties to settle the dispute.

Published in Dawn, February 2nd, 2018