KARACHI / QUETTA: Sardar Ataullah Mengal, veteran nationalist leader, founder of the Balochistan National Party (BNP) and former Balochistan chief minister, passed away in Karachi on Thursday, his family and party sources said. He was 92.

“The icon of Baloch Nationalism, Sardar Ataullah Khan Mengal is no more with us,” tweeted BNP member of the Balochistan Assembly, Sanaullah Baloch.

Later in another tweet, he announced that Mr Mengal’s body would be taken to his ancestral town Wadh, in Balochistan’s Khuzdar district, on Friday morning. His funeral prayers would be offered at 3pm.

“The BNP announces 10-day mourning on the sad demise of Sardar Mengal,” Mr Baloch said.

Condolence messages started pouring in after news of Mr Mengal’s demise broke on TV channels. Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shehbaz Sharif was among the national leaders who came up with his reaction over the death of Sardar Mengal.

“Saddened by the news of Sardar Ataullah Mengal’s passing away,” tweeted the PML-N leader: “He was a prominent tribal leader & the first Chief Minister of Balochistan. May Allah rest his soul in peace! I extend my heartfelt condolences to Sardar Akhtar Mengal and his family.”

Former Pakistan ambassador to the United States Hussain Haqqani also expressed his condolence and tweeted “saddened by the loss of the great Baloch leader, Sardar Ataullah Mengal. He stood for and by his people, at great personal cost”.

Former senator of the Awami National Party Afrasiab Khattak termed Mr Mengal’s death a huge loss. “Death of Sardar Attaullah Mengal is a huge loss for Baloch people and also for the oppressed people of the region. His struggle against brutal oppressors inspired generations of activists. May his soul rest in peace. Deep condolences to his family, BNP and the Baloch people,” he tweeted.

Sardar Ataullah Mengal was suffering from heart disease for a long time and underwent heart surgery twice in London.

Though he led an active political life, for the last few years he had been spending most of his time at home in Karachi.

Last week, he was admitted to a private hospital in Karachi due to some complications where he remained under treatment.

Born in 1929, Sardar Mengal spent his childhood in Lasbela before moving to Karachi. His days of prominence and active politics started when he was only 25 and had become one of the youngest chiefs of the Mengal tribe in 1954.

After some time, he was arrested on the allegation of treason but after a few weeks he was released.

During his detention, with the connivance of the rulers an elderly person Karam Khan Mengal was installed as Sardar of Mengal tribe but the people of the tribe killed him in an attack. Sardar Ataullah Mengal, his father Rasool Bakhsh Mengal and brother Mehr Ullah Mengal were arrested. But they were released by the court as police failed to prove their presence at the site of the murder of Karam Khan.

In the meantime, veteran Baloch leader Mir Ghous Bakhsh Bizenjo brought Ataullah Mengal to the field of politics and in 1956 the latter was elected to the East Pakistan Assembly. He joined the National Awami Party (NAP) along with Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri and Mir Bizenjo and strongly opposed General Ayub’s martial law. He also opposed One Unit and remained part of the movements launched in the country against One Unit.

SARDAR Ataullah Mengal, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri during a meeting at Bugti House, Quetta, in the 70s.—Dawn
SARDAR Ataullah Mengal, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri during a meeting at Bugti House, Quetta, in the 70s.—Dawn

Sardar Mengal also took part in the 1962 elections along with Nawab Marri and Mir Bizenjo. He was elected member of West Pakistan Assembly from Kalat division. In the West Pakistan Assembly Mr Mengal’s fiery speeches against military rulers and One Unit brought him in the list of top political leaders of the country who were struggling against martial law and military rule.

Mr Mengal took part in the first parliamentary election of the country after dismemberment of One Unit on the ticket of the National Awami Party and was elected to the provincial assembly after Balochistan was granted the status of province.

He became first chief minister of Balochistan in May 1972 and took important decisions regarding education as the CM. He established the Balochistan Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education and Bolan Medical College and demanded provincial autonomy for running the affairs of the province. He sent back government employees to their provinces who were posted in Balochistan during One Unit and established the Balochistan Rural Force to maintain law and order in the rural areas of the province.

However, during his brief tenure as chief minister, serious differences emerged between the federal and the provincial governments which resulted in dismissal of his government in February 1973.

This stirred the third insurgency in Balochistan and Marri, Mengal and other tribes climbed on mountains in Marri, Jhalawan and Sarawan areas to launch an armed struggle against the federal government led by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

The NAP leadership, including Wali Khan, Sardar Mengal, Nawab Marri, Mir Bizenjo, and Mir Gul Khan Naseer, were arrested in the Hyderabad conspiracy case. They were released after General Ziaul Haq toppled the elected government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and the Hyderabad conspiracy case was quashed.

However, during Zia’s martial law, Sardar Mengal went into exile and spent many years in London. There he was instrumental in the establishment of the Pakistan Oppressed Nations Movement to secure the rights of Baloch, Pakhtun, Sindhi and Saraiki people.

After returning to Pakistan in 90s he established the Balochistan National Party which won majority of Balochistan Assembly sets in the 1996 elections and his son Sardar Akhtar Jan Mengal elected chief minister of Balochistan.

Soon differences emerged in the BNP and with Nawab Akbar Bugti, whose party of part of the provincial coalition, which resulted into a split in the BNP and removal of Akhtar Mengal-led government.

For a long time Sardar Ataullah Mengal was not active in politics due to his age and illness. However, he will always be remembered as a politician of principles and a great democrat who never bowed before any dictator and fought relentlessly for democracy and human rights.

Published in Dawn, September 3rd, 2021

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