Zafarullah Jamali — a politician of reason and accommodation

Published December 3, 2020
THIS file photo shows then president Gen Pervez Musharraf swearing in Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali as the country’s prime minister on Nov 23, 2002.
THIS file photo shows then president Gen Pervez Musharraf swearing in Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali as the country’s prime minister on Nov 23, 2002.

KARACHI: Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, the soft-spoken and affable gentleman with a genial smile, is no more.

Mir Jamali, Pakistan’s only prime minister from the troubled province of Balochistan, was a cool-headed politician who, even in the face of hostility, preached peace and avoided confrontation.

Born in Rojhan Jamali on Jan 1, 1944, his early schooling was in Balochistan, followed by Lawrence College, Murree, Aitchison College and Government College, Lahore. He received a master’s in history from the latter institution.

His upbringing and education inculcated tenderness and compassion in him. Even as a tribal leader he never exercised his authority without listening to other parties. In politics, too, this trait became his guiding force.

Zafarullah Jamali was aware of the injustices committed against the Baloch as their vast natural resources were exploited to benefit everyone but them.

He remembered the discovery of Sui gas in 1952, but its benefits did not reach the Baloch until the 1980s. When his people demanded their rights, many of them were jailed for ‘sedition’.

He remembered that when he was a student in Lahore, an army action was launched to suppress an uprising led by Sher Mohammad Marri. It lasted till Gen Yahya Khan took over in 1969. The operation inflicted a huge loss of life and property on the hapless tribes.

They started feeling alienated as their demands were treated as a sign of rebellion and suppressed ruthlessly by the Ayub Khan regime.

Determined to end his unfortunate homeland’s misery, he decided it was time to do something.

By now Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had formed a party which promised social justice to every citizen. The 26-year-old Jamali joined him. He nursed high hopes that with the charismatic Bhutto’s help, he would heal the wounds inflicted on the Baloch by Ayub Khan.

Hopes dashed

But that hope soon turned into a nightmare.

In collaboration with Bhutto, he tried to bring about an atmosphere conducive to addressing Balochistan’s grievances, but disillusionment set in when the provincial governments of Balochistan and the then North West Frontier Province (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) were dismissed in 1973. A military operation followed.

This aggravated the situation and led to the formation of the Baloch Liberation Army under Khair Bakhsh Marri. Another army action followed, bringing about a large number of killings and untold misery.

But the moderate Jamali refused to give up hope. He contested the elections for Balochistan Assembly in March 1977 on a PPP ticket and won. He then joined the provincial cabinet, headed by Nawab Muhammad Khan Barozai, as food and information minister.

Gen Ziaul Haq overthrew the Bhutto government on July 5, 1977. But he set out to give a civilian facade to his military regime in 1983 after the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) launched its struggle. He tried to cobble together a civilian government headed by a compliant prime minister.

He weighed the names of Illahi Bakhsh Soomro, Mohammad Khan Junejo and Mir Zafarullah Jamali for the job, settling for Mr Junejo. Jamali Sahib joined the Zia cabinet as minister of state for local bodies.

After the death of Ziaul Haq in Aug 1988, elected governments were formed at the centre and in provinces in December. Zafarullah Jamali served as chief minister of Balochistan from June to December.

He again served as caretaker chief minister for three months after the dismissal of Benazir Bhutto’s government in Nov 1996.

In 1990, he joined the Pakistan Muslim League, led by Nawaz Sharif.

When Gen Musharraf overthrew Nawaz Sharif in 1999, Jamali joined the PML-Q, and was rewarded with the premiership in 2002.

As prime minister he did as he was bid, but his pliability did not go down well with his party’s supremo, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain. He was left with no choice but to quit on June 26, 2004. Musharraf brought in Shaukat Aziz as a replacement.

As prime minister and earlier as chief minister of Balochistan, Mr Jamali’s stints in the coveted offices made little impression. Nonetheless, he lived a quiet life of respect, self-esteem and serenity after that.

Other interests

Apart from politics, Jamali’s resume showed he played hockey for Punjab. His passion for the game took him to many important events. He also served as the Pakistan Hockey Federation’s chief and represented the country at the 1984 Olympics as a delegate.

He had the distinction of representing Pakistan at the United Nations sessions in 1981 and 1991.

Jamali was a scion of an illustrious family which played a role in the Pakistan Movement. His uncle Mir Jaffar Khan Jamali was a close associate of the Quaid-i-Azam.

Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2020


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