KARACHI: Niamatullah Khan, better known as Niamatullah Khan Advocate, former mayor and senior leader of the Jamaat-i-Islami, passed away here on Tuesday after protracted illness. He was 89.

Survived by seven sons and two daughters, Mr Khan was regarded as one of the faces of the Jamaat-i-Islami in Karachi, where he rose to lead the party in the city for 10 consecutive years and became a member of the provincial assembly before serving the city as its mayor for four years.

He graduated from the University of Punjab before completing his master’s degree in Persian literature from the University of Karachi from where he also completed diploma in journalism. He got higher education in law to build his career as a member of the legal fraternity. After earning an LLB degree, he started practice in income tax law in Karachi and successfully continued his career from 1958 till 1991.

Born in October 1930 in Ajmer, India, his family migrated to newly-created Pakistan in the last week of August 1947. His close aides, party colleagues and family friends recalled his over seven-decade-old contribution as an activist and social worker.

They remembered how he started his activism by participating in the Pakistan Movement in united India as a teenager. According to his family sources, he also attended with the Muslim legislators of Shahjahanpur the ‘All India Muslim legislators conference’ convened by Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

Funeral to be held after Zuhar prayers on New M.A. Jinnah Road near Islamia College today

In 1946-47 he was elected deputy chief of the Muslim League National Guard of Ajmer district.

Struggling from a job of stenographer to become a lawyer of the high court in Karachi, Mr Khan spent his life as a political and social activist, becoming a known figure in the city’s political circles in the late 1970s and early 1980s. After joining the JI in 1956, he became a key man of the party within the next few years and was elected a member of the Sindh Assembly in 1985 to remain leader of the opposition for a three-and-a-half-year tenure.

He became the party chief in Karachi in 1991 and served it till 2001 when he was elected city nazim after then president Gen Pervez Musharraf enacted a new system of local government in Pakistan under the Local Government Ordinance (LGO of 2001), allowing a stronger local government in the business capital.

A statement issued by the JI said that Mr Khan during the four years as the city mayor built 2,500 new schools in the city, 33 new colleges and helped Karachi’s development budget shoot up from Rs6 billion to Rs43bn through his influence and effort.

As the mayor of Karachi, Mr Khan was empowered to make decisions regarding city management and the Karachi Development Authority (KDA) was directly placed under his supervision with control over city planning, the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board and the then Karachi Building Control Authority (KBCA).

During his four-year administration, Karachi witnessed massive development which included the ambitious K-IV water project, Karachi Urban Transport Scheme, building of multiple roads, underpasses and bypasses, overhead bridges and the first cardiac hospital under the local administration called the Karachi Institute of Heart Disease.

Condolences

Condolence messages from the president of Pakistan to senior politicians and sports celebrities to leading businessmen started pouring in on the broadcast and social media minutes after news of his demise hit the headlines of the news channels.

President Dr Arif Alvi called him a “great man” and prayed for the departed soul.

Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in a statement also expressed grief and sorrow over his demise.

The most significant among the messages were from leaders of the staunch rival parties lauding Mr Khan’s character, honesty and his contribution to the city’s development as an activist, a leader and the mayor.

Almost the same thoughts were shared by MQM-London leader Mustafa Azizabadi who called his demise a “great loss.” His successor, former mayor and founding chief of the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) Mustafa Kamal called him an “asset of Pakistan and a great stature politician”.

“My heartfelt condolence on the demise of Naimatullah Khan Sahib with the family and friends,” Mr Kamal wrote. “There is no doubt about it that he was an asset of Pakistan and a great stature politician. I had an extremely respectful relationship with Naimat Sb and will always cherish that.”

Faisal Subzwari, leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), tweeted: “As mayor, Naimatullah Khan wonderfully served Karachi for which he would be remembered forever.”

The JI statement said that his funeral prayers would be offered on Wednesday [today] after Zuhar prayers on New M.A. Jinnah Road near Islamia College.

Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2020