A principled politician

Sardar Sherbaz Khan Mazari was a prominent leader of the opposition

Veteran politician Sardar Sherbaz Khan Mazari passed away on December 5 in Karachi.

The family announcement read: “The Mazari family is deeply grieved to announce the passing away of our cherished elder, Sardar Sherbaz Khan Mazari. A devoted and loving patriarch, fiercely dedicated to his country, loyal to his friends – he commanded respect for his unwavering integrity. He was much revered by his tribe, where his sense of justice prevailed in resolving conflict through tribal decisions.”

He was born in Rojhan Mazari on October 5, 1930. His father, Mir Murad Bakhsh Khan, was the chief of the Mazari tribe in Dera Ghazi Khan.

Sher Baz Khan Mazari lost his mother when he was one year old and his father when he was two years old. As an orphan, he his two brothers, Sardar Mir Balakh Sher, Sardar Sher Janand and three sisters were placed under the guardianship of the British government. He studied at Aitchison College at Lahore and at the Royal Indian Military College at Dehradun.

Mazari entered politics when Fatima Jinnah contested the presidential election against Ayub Khan. Mazari supported Ms Jinnah even though he knew that the election would be engineered.

He was a man of principle. When Gen Yahya Khan took over, he opposed the transition. He also opposed Yahya Khan’s military action in the then East Pakistan. When Zulfikar Ali Bhutto came into power, Mazari supported the Pakistan Peoples Party. In 1970, when every politician was vying for a PPP ticket, he contested the National Assembly election as an independent.

Mazari tried to resolve the Balochistan issue politically in the National Assembly, However, Bhutto opted for military action. Later, Mazari joined the Wali Khan-led National Awami Party (NAP). When it was banned, Mazari formed the National Democratic Party (NDP).

He remained the leader of the opposition in the parliament till 1977. It is worth mentioning that Mazari was a signatory to the 1973 Constitution as head of the independent group in the National Assembly. Mazari became part of the campaign launched by the Pakistan National Alliance that ultimately led to the ouster of Bhutto’s government on July 5, 1977. However, in 1983, he supported the PPP and other parties in launching the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) against Zia.

The Mazari clan had a long standing rivalry with the Bugtis. Despite that, Mazari requested Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to negotiate a way out for Nawab Akbar Bugti during the Ayub era.

In 1951, he settled in Soon Miani, on the east bank of the Indus river. As a tribal chief, he had to look after the affairs of the tribe. The locals still remember his golden days and say they had felt safe when Mazari was there. No one dared steal from or rob anyone in the area. He used to resolve the disputes and old feuds within days. In a jirga no one could pressure him into deciding unjustly. It is often claimed that most feudal lords use and protect criminal gangs. However, Sher Baz Khan Mazari would have none of such tactics. During his time, no criminal gangs emerged in the area. People used to sleep safe and sound without the fear of criminals. Today more than 200 criminals are based in Soon Miani.

He had a refined literary taste. This is evident from his autobiography, A Journey to Disillusionment, that was published in 1999.

In 1980, Mazari was offered prime-ministership by Gen Zia. However, he refused the offer. He also lost the election in 1988. He then left his native area and settled in Karachi where he spent the rest of his life. His body was brought to Rojhan where he was buried in the presence of thousands of people.

He is survived by his sons: Sher Ali Mazari, Sher Koh Mazari, Murad Bukhsh Mazari, Sher Azam Mazari and Shehryar Khan Mazari.

The author works for The News. He can be contacted at [email protected]

Sardar Sherbaz Khan Mazari was a principled politician