December issue 2002
The Prime of Mr Jamali
In the absence of any PML-Q nominees from Punjab and Sindh for the PM’s slot, Balochistan can now boast, for the first time in Pakistan’s history, of its own Prime Minister — Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali.
Jamali had been in the running for the PM’s position 17 years ago, but his premiership hopes were dashed by military ruler General Zia-ul-Haq, who opted for the late Junejo, in a calculated move intended to pacify anti-Islamabad feelings among Sindh in the wake of Z.A. Bhutto’s execution.
Now, almost two decades later, in another close call, it is at the hands of another military government that Jamali has proved victorious. Analysts contend that he might not have been chosen had the PML-Q managed to reach a compromise deal with the PPP Parliamentarians. Interestingly, his appointment has not been welcomed in Balochistan’s political circles, except by the PML-Q.
The nationalist parties have expressed scepticism over contentions that Jamali was made premier because he hails from Balochistan, and doubt his ability to implement any sustainable solutions to the manifold problems of the province. “As Jamali has become premier on a weak wicket, he will be busy trying to keep his job intact, and will find little time to devote to his people. It is clear that those who brought him into office will use him for their own interests,” says Sardar Akhtar Mengal, former chief minister and president of the Balochistan National Party (BNP). He also claims that a pending corruption reference against Jamali had been withdrawn by expunging the court’s remarks against him. Abdur Rahim Mundokhail, vice-chairman of the Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami party, voices similar apprehensions. “It is unfortunate that a Baloch will be used for helping a military dictator tighten his grip over the political affairs in the country in order to prolong his dictatorial regime,” he said. Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, Jamali’s mentor, meanwhile, has preferred, to maintain a dignified silence on the subject.
Known as Jabal Khan to his family, 58-year-old Mir Zafarullah Jamali is the son of a tribal landlord Mir Shahnawaz Khan, who hails from a family of Muslim Leaguers. Jamali was born in 1944 in Naseerabad (Balochistan) and received his primary schooling from Lawrence College, Ghora Gali, followed by ‘A’ Levels from Aitchson college, Lahore. He went on to study for a bachelor’s degree from Government College and was awarded a master’s degree in political science from Punjab University in 1965. He was also a keen sportsman and was on his school and university’s hockey teams.
Jamali took part in the 1970 elections for the first time, but was defeated by Sardar Chakar Khan Domki. He was then elected MPA in the 1977 elections on a PPP ticket. After the imposition of martial law, he joined hands with Zia-ul-Haq and was accommodated in the federal cabinet as state minister. He took part in the party-less polls of 1985, and became MNA from the Naseerabad division. Although an aspirant for the prime minister’s slot, he was included in the federal cabinet and assigned the portfolio of water and power in the Junejo government.
Zafarullah Khan was appointed caretaker chief minister of Balochistan in 1988, when General Zia dismissed the Junejo government and dissolved the assemblies. He was elected to the provincial assembly during Benazir’s tenure, and became the chief minister with the casting vote of speaker. Jamali advised the governor to dissolve the assembly within a month, probably at the behest of then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, after one of his minister’s defected to the JUI-BNA opposition bloc headed by Nawab Akbar Bugti.
It was Jamali who proposed the name of Nawab Akbar Bugti as leader of the house when the assembly met for the first time in February 1989, after its restoration in the wake of the Balochistan High Court verdict. He ran for a National Assembly seat in the1990 elections, but was defeated by arch political rival, PPP nominee, Mir Nabi Bakhsh Khoso. As the PML’s nominee in the1993 polls, however, the tables turned and Khoso was defeated. Jamali was once more appointed caretaker chief minister in 1997 upon which he nominated his elder son Faridullah Jamali to the National Assembly, preferring to go to the upper house himself.
Considered a sharp but accommodating politician, Jamali has remained loyal to the Muslim League throughout his political career. He is also known for his affinity with the military. Jamali’s paternal uncle, Mir Jaffar Khan Jamali, a well known Leaguer in Balochistan, was a close associate of Quaid-e-Azam, who was also his lawyer.
Despite his cool demeanour, numerous incidents indicate that Zafarullah is a man to be reckoned with. When Mir Faiq Ali Jamali, one of Zafarullah’s political pupils, dared to challenge him upon becoming a provincial minister in 1997, Faiq’s attempts to discredit his former guru remained unsuccesful. He is now in jail on corruption charges. Another of Zafarullah’s nephews, Mir Jan Mohammad Jamali, also suffered a similar fate when he tried to challenge his uncle’s leadership upon becoming chief minister of Balochistan in 1999. Accused of corruption, he was shipped off to Dubai for one and a half year to avoid being arrested, and it was finally Mir Jabal himself who came to his rescue. After negotiating some “concessions,” Jan Mohammad Jamali is now a MPA.
One of the most crucial period’s of Jamali’s life, which resulted in serious disputes within the family, involved his decision to dispose off the family’s ancestral property in order to treat his ailing elder son who needed a liver transplant. Jamali has four sons, among whom two are captains in the army, and a daughter who is married to Humayun Wardag, the son of one of his closest friends,the late Sardar Ayub Wardag, a former mayor of Quetta.
The writer is a journalist based in Quetta and is President of Quetta Press Club (QPC).