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Jatoi - a politician with moderate leaning

November 21, 2009


GHULAM Mustafa Jatoi was a scion of an influential family of Nawabshah district. He held a number of key positions in Sindh and at the centre during an eventful career that peaked in 1990 when he was named prime minister in a caretaker government.

Mr Jatoi was a rare commodity on the country's political scene in that he commanded respect from all regardless of political affiliation.

He was among those landlords who owned large holdings since generations. His father, Ghulam Rasool Jatoi, was accorded the title of Khan Bahadur by the British. This encouraged him to enter politics. He had been a member of the Bombay Legislative Assembly in 1923, 1927 and 1931.

Mr Jatoi began his political career in 1952 at the grass roots when he was elected chairman of the District Local Board, Nawabshah. At that time, local boards and municipal committees were the main platforms to muster support of the local populace and also served as training grounds for new entrants.

Mr Jatoi managed to forge a rapport with such influential figures of the district as Syed Khair Shah and Syed Zafar Ali Shah. Communities like Dahris, Unnars and Rajpars also extended their support to him.

He was now ready to embrace mainstream politics. This defining phase of his life began in 1958 when he was elected to the West Pakistan Assembly. In 1965 he won re-election to the house.

In 1969, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto persuaded him to join the Pakistan People's Party. The timing was just right as the campaign for the 1970 general election was in full swing.

That election was a deathblow to many political icons. Giants like Khanbahadur Ghulam Mohammad Wassan, Mohammad Ayub Khuhro and Mangi brothers could not withstand the PPP juggernaut. Mr Jatoi won the election as a PPP candidate with a thumping majority.

Mr Bhutto inducted him into his first cabinet as minister for political affairs, ports, shipping, natural resources and communications. No other minister had so many departments at one time. In 1973, he was appointed chief minister of Sindh -- a position he held till July 4, 1977.

Following the promulgation of martial law by Gen Ziaul Haq on July 5, Mr Jatoi decided to struggle for restoration of democracy with other party leaders. During the trial of Z.A. Bhutto, he pleaded his case, along with Mumtaz Bhutto, Hafeez Pirzada and Nusrat Bhutto.

There are many opinions about the handling of the Bhutto case, but historians agree that Mr Jatoi remained a steadfast supporter of the People's Party.

He was one of the leading lights in the Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD), which was launched in 1983.

Exit from PPP

But Mr Jatoi's political fortunes suffered a jolt upon the return of Benazir Bhutto in 1986 _ he was removed as Sindh PPP's chairman. There could have been a number of reasons for his exit, but Mr Jatoi thought it was because of his moderate views.

He later formed his own faction of the PPP, naming it National People's Party (NPP). The party attracted to its fold the PPP's old guard like Ghulam Mustafa Khar, Hanif Ramay, S.M. Zafar, Kamal Azfar, Ghaus Bakhsh Raisani, Hamid Raza Gilani, Malik Hamid Sarfraz and Pir Aftab Jilani .

The death of Gen Ziaul Haq on Aug 17, 1988, changed the whole scenario. Ghulam Ishaq Khan announced general elections. Benazir Bhutto's public meetings drew huge crowds. She banked on her father's policies and made new pledges. Nawaz Sharif also emerged as a major contender, citing the development work he had undertaken in Punjab during the Zia regime.

Mr Jatoi, along with the Pakistan Muslim League and seven other parties, formed a grand alliance -- Islami Jamhoori Ittehad -- and contested the 1988 polls. The election results favoured the PPP. Many stalwarts, including Mr Jatoi himself, lost in their home constituencies. He was later offered a seat by Ghulam Mustafa Khar from Kot Addu.

When the Benazir government was dismissed on Aug 6, 1990, on charges of corruption, after 20 months in power, Mr Jatoi was asked to act as caretaker prime minister till the next elections. During the election process, he was asked to institute accountability. Special courts were established for this purpose, but Mr Jatoi made it clear that it was for the next elected government to take action.

The Oct 1990 elections were close to call as polarisation was too obvious. However, Nawaz Sharif's IJI alliance won a simple majority, making him the next prime minister.

After the dismissal of the Nawaz government, again on corruption charges, on April 19, 1993, Mr Jatoi was elected to the National Assembly in the October 1993 polls. Benazir Bhutto returned to power.

Her government was again dismissed and polls for Feb 1997 were announced. This time Mr Jatoi contested, but could not win. He now decided to become a playmaker, letting the younger generation take the heat of the battlefield.

For the 2002 elections, he patched up an alliance which won some seats.

His four sons -- Murtaza Jatoi, Mansoor Jatoi, Arif Jatoi and Asif Jatoi - entered politics. Murtaza and Mansoor have held various ministerial and advisory positions in governments.

Mr Jatoi knew that the common touch matters and this served him in good stead in the rough and tumble of the political minefield. He had differences of opinion with party workers as well as the leadership time and again, but always succeeded in recovering his equilibrium.