The first among Baloch chiefs

A look at the political legacy of former prime minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali

When Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the then prime minister, visited Jacobabad in 1976, he asked Mir Murad Khan Jamali to join his party. The latter refused. Instead, he introduced a 32-year-old cousin of his to Bhutto. Nobody could have predicted then that this young man would become a prime minister. It was Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali aka Jabal (mountain) who became prime minister 26 years later, the first politician from the province to hold the office.

Jamali was born in 1944. When he passed away on December 2 at the age of around 77, he had been in politics for 44 years.

Jamali twice held the office of caretaker chief minister. In 1988, he was elected chief minister but remained in office for only 14 days. Earlier, he was a minister in the cabinet of late Jam Ghualm Qadir Khan when the later formed the government in the wake of the 1977 general elections.

Jamali took great pride in having served as Miss Fatima Jinnah’s guard and her polling agent in the 1965 presidential election. After he joined the Pakistan Peoples Party in 1976, he became the party candidate in the 1977 elections, contesting a provincial assembly seat and winning it. After the dismissal of the Bhutto government, he supported the military regime and was eventually rewarded with a federal portfolio in the Junejo cabinet following the 1985 party-less elections.

After the dismissal of the Junejo government, he was appointed the caretaker chief minister in June 1988. Two months later, Gen Zia died in a plane crash and the then Senate chairman Ghulam Ishaq Khan took over as acting president. Eying the chief minister’s office, Jamali ran for a provincial assembly seat on an IJI ticket and won.

His supporters lacked a majority in the PA but his lieutenant Saeed Ahmad Hashmi managed to persuade Maulana Khosti, a JUI-F member from the opposition, to vote for him. Speaker Sardar Mohammad Khan Barozai then had to cast his vote to break the tie and Zafarullah Khan was elected the leader of the house. Just 14 days later, he lost his thin majority when one of his ministers, Sardar Dost Mohammad Hasani, joined the opposition led by Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti. Following some consultation with the federal government, led by Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, he advised the governor to dissolve the assembly and call for fresh elections. However, the assembly was restored two months later on Balochistan High Court order and Nawab Akbar Bugti was elected chief minister in February 1989 as a joint candidate of the Balochistan National Alliance, the JUI-F and the PkMAP.

Jamali still wished to be Balochistan chief minister but realized soon that in the presence of Nawab Akbar Bugti, Nawab Zulfiqar Magsi and his cousin Mir Taj Jamali, he stood no chance. So, he left Quetta for Islamabad to try his luck in the federal capital. In 1985, he had been considered for premiership, but lost out to Junejo who was chosen on the advice of Pir Sahib Pagara.

Jamali had a long political association with Mian Nawaz Sharif. However, he supported the Musharraf regime and joined the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid. Given the rising unrest in Balochistan, Islamabad felt the need for a Baloch prime minister to redress some of the long-standing grievances of Baloch people. However, the military ruler soon became disenchanted with him and asked him to step down in 2004.

Later, he would claim credit for resisting Musharraf’s move to hand over nuclear scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan to the US and to launch a military operation in Balochistan. Most political analysts believe that while Jamali might have shared his views in this regard with Gen Musharraf, he probably offered no stiff resistance. Having publicly acknowledged Musharraf as his “boss”, they say, he could not have go against the latter’s will. With Musharraf on his way out, Jamali ran as an independent in the 2013 general elections. He later joined the PML-N. However, Nawaz Sharif did not accept Jamali wholeheartedly. Nevertheless, he offered Jamali the Pakistan Hockey Federation leadership. His family members and supporters did not like his gesture in accepting the office of PHF president after having served as prime minister of Pakistan.

As a human being, he was a thorough gentleman: simple, hospitable, accommodative, tolerant and down to earth. He believed in maintaining good relations with all tribes. He was also a past master in the art of political maneuvering.

Jamali again disassociated himself from the PML-N over the tussle with the establishment. He also raised a voice against the changes in declaration in Form-A of the Election Commission. This time he expected dozens of PML-N lawmakers to join him. However, his dissenting note went unnoticed. Sensing the change in 2018 elections, he allied himself with the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and managed to obtain a ticket for his son Umar for the Provincial Assembly seat and for his nephew Khan Mohammad for the National Assembly.

There can be no doubt that Zafarullah Jamali replaced his uncle Mir Jaffar Khan Jamali and cousin Mir Murad Khan, the stalwarts of Muslim League, and effectively led the Jamali family. However, he did not carry forward their anti-establishment legacy. Some of the people close to him say that becoming the prime minister had been his biggest dream. It come true. However, his wish to see his son elected as Balochistan chief minister remained a dream. His eldest son, Fareedullah, has been elected as an MNA, while his youngest son, Umar, is currently a provincial minister. His two other sons have retired from the army.

As a human being, Jamali was a thorough gentleman: simple, hospitable, accommodative, tolerant and down to earth. He believed in maintaining good relations with all tribes. He was an expert in the art of political maneuvering and always kept his own interest supreme. This was to lead to the division of the Jamali family into two camps - one led by him and the other by his nephew, Mir Jan Jamali, the former PA speaker, chief minister and Senate deputy chairman. His most trusted confidant, Faiq Jamali, too, turned on him and then tried to erase Zafarullah Jamali’s influence in the constituency. In the 2018 elections, Mir Zafarullah Jamali had to embark on a door-to-door campaign to request the people to vote for his son against Faiq.

Although the death of Mir Zafarullah is a great loss to his immediate family and relatives, it has not created a vacuum in his constituency or Balochistan. Despite enjoying considerable influence and having served as prime minister for two years, he had nothing to his credit in Balochistan or his constituency. Instead of doing anything for his people and Balochistan during his tenure, he annoyed nationalists when he helped Akram Wali Mohammad, a business tycoon from Karachi, win a Senate seat in 2003. Once elected, Wali never visited Balochistan or spent a single penny or spoke in the upper house for the people of the province.

There was a traditional rivalry between Khoso and Jamali tribes. All elections in the area have practically been battles between the two groups. Jamalis, who are better educated, enjoy influence in establishment circles. The Khosos are less educated, but affluent. In 1960, Mir Jaffar Khan Jamali was defeated by Darya Khan Khoso and Amin Khoso. However, Zafarullah Jamali never allowed Khosos to surpass Jamalis in the political arena. Once he offered his arch rival, Mir Nabi Bakhsh Khan Khoso, to end the rivalry by nominating joint candidates for elections. “If I die and a Jamali comes to my grave seeking a settlement, I will oppose him even from my grave,” Khoso is said to have replied.

Nabi Bakhsh Khoso was uneducated himself but donated his personal residence to the boys’ college with 500 acres of farm land to meet its expenditure. Jamalis, on the other hand failed, to establish any school, college or library in the name of their ancestors in their constituency. It is hard today to predict the political future of Mir Zafarullah’s son. His opponent, Jan Jamali, is likely to replace him as the major Jamali leader.

The writer is a   journalist based in Quetta

Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali: The first among Baloch chiefs