Seasoned politician and veteran Baloch nationalist leader Senator Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo has died at the age of 62, lawmakers and politicians confirmed.
Bizenjo passed away while undergoing treatment at a private hospital in Karachi, National Party Central Secretary General Jan Muhammad Buledi said.
He said Bizenjo was admitted to the hospital after his health deteriorated. The senator was diagnosed with lung cancer last year.
He remained chief of the National Party and was currently serving as an ideologue of the party.
Politicians, journalists and intellectuals expressed grief and sorrow at the senator's passing.
Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) president Sardar Akhtar Mengal shared his condolences in a tweet.
Leader of Opposition in National Assembly and PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif in a tweet said he was "shocked and saddened" by the news of Bizenjo's death.
"As a distinguished politician from Balochistan, he represented the voice of the people of his province & stood for progressive & rule-based politics."
PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari described his death as "a great loss to the country, its democratic forces and Balochistan".
"Bizenjo remained in the forefront in the struggle for supremacy of the Constitution and strengthening of democracy" and was "a strong voice against injustices to Balochistan", Bilawal said in a statement.
Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa also expressed grief over his demise and extended condolences to the senator's family and friends, according to a tweet by the DG ISPR.
PPP leader and Senator Sherry Rehman said she was "shocked, saddened and bereaved" to hear of his passing.
"He had been battling cancer so bravely few suspected how advanced the disease was. His public life was marked by progressive, principled politics as an advocate for the vulnerable. End of an era," she wrote.
Senior journalist Mazhar Abbas said Bizenjo's death was a "personal loss" to him and that the late senator "would always be remembered as a true nationalist".
Political scientist Adnan Rasool recalled Bijenzo as "one of the kindest and humble men I have ever met in my life"
In his condolence message, Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani said he had spent a great time and learned a lot from Bijenzo during their time together in the Senate. He said Pakistan had lost a seasoned political leader in his death.
Balochistan government spokesperson Liaquat Shahwani in a tweet recalled Bizenjo as a strong, progressive democrat and a kind leader with whom he had a political association of two decades.
A revered figure in Pakistani politics
In 2013, the National Party came to power in Balochistan with the help of the PML-N, thrusting its leadership into national focus. Hasil Bizenjo became its president in 2014.
Bizenjo was a revered figure in Pakistani politics for his unwavering democratic stance. But since 2013, his party’s power had dwindled as new challengers popped up.
A strong and consistent advocate of rights of the Baloch, Bizenjo was a vocal opponent of armed resistance and had repeatedly said that use of force by Baloch militants was not acceptable. He said militancy had not served the interest of Balochistan and its people.
While being a clear opponent of militancy, Bijenzo had accused successive governments of having made “huge blunders” in Balochistan by adopting hardline positions that subsequently led to various crises. He also believed that the Centre should allow Balochistan a fair share from the province’s own resources.
Bizenjo had remained a consistent ally of PML-N at the Centre as well as in Balochistan since it struck a coalition deal with the party after the 2013 polls.
NP under Bizenjo’s leadership had also called for effective devolution of powers to provinces.