June issue 2018

By | Cover Story | Published 6 years ago


Tribal clout is still strong enough in Balochistan to secure the majority of assembly seats for scions of powerful families. Political dynasties carve up areas of influence, and rule through generations, with not much to show in terms of social or economic development. The active support of the establishment has also been a key factor in the politics of the province, as the politicians they favour strike deals without any compunction. 

These families have dominated the political arena since the inception of the country and creation of Balochistan province in 1970. To some extent, the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), particularly the Fazlur Rahman group, penetrated  the strongholds of the tribal dynasties, but could not bring about any radical change. However, in Pashtoon areas, where religion is an important factor, the JUI has managed to oust some tribal chieftains. It maintains its hold in a number of constituencies, facing up to its arch rival, the Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PMAP). 

Nawab Ayaz Jogezai, an influential chieftain in the Pashtoon areas, has never won an assembly seat on his own (except in the party-less elections of 1985, boycotted by all political parties). However, he won the national assembly seat from Zhob, with the support of leaguer MPA Jaffar Mundokhail. Jogezai, not confident of winning from his home town, Killa Saifullah, had to convince the party to field him on a provincial assembly seat in Quetta for an easy win.

The people of Balochistan want to assert their rights over their own resources, and in that pursuit the nationalist parties fan separatist tendencies. The establishment seeks to counter this trend by patronising the scions of political dynasties, who are more than willing to toe the line. For generations, these families have sworn allegiance to parties supported by the establishment. They were a part of the Ayub regime, and later jumped onto the Bhutto bandwagon. After the promulgation of Zia-ul-Haq’s Martial Law, they allied themselves with the dictator. They flocked to the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI), formed to keep the PPP out of power. They switched between various groups of the Muslim League patronised by the establishment and were to be seen in Musharraf’s Q league. 

After the 2013 elections, they supported the N League and were rewarded with ministries and huge chunks of development funds, besides perks and privileges. However, a few months ahead of the expiry of his five-year term, they abandoned Nawaz Sharif, promptly toppling his party’s government, led by Nawab Sanaullah Zehri. A new platform called the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) came into being, to parry the nationalist parties. Jam Kamal Aalyan became its head, with Munzoor Kakar as general secretary. Aalyan was federal state minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources in Nawaz Sharif’s and later in Khaqan Abbasi’s cabinet. Kakar, who was elected member provincial assembly on the PMAP ticket, deserted his party on the eve of the revolt against Sanaullah Zehri.        

Jam Kamal who was tipped to be the next chief minister, is the grandson of Jam Ghulam Qadir Khan, the last ruler of Lasbela State and son of Jam Mohammad Yousaf. Both served as chief ministers of Balochistan in military regimes. Jam Ghulam Qadir was the first among four rulers of the princely state to join Pakistan in 1947. He was the maternal uncle and guardian of the nationalist leader, Sardar Attaullah Mengal. He became chief minister under the Bhutto government in 1973, after the toppling of the Mengal-led NAP government. He was also chief minister from 1985-88, under General Zia. After his death in 1988, his son, Jam Yousaf, succeeded him and has been elected to the national and provincial assemblies, holding key positions in various cabinets. He was elected chief minister from 2003-2008, under Musharraf. After his death in February 2013, Jam Kamal succeeded him and was elected on both the national and provincial seats from Lasbela. His brother-in-law was elected to a National Assembly seat in the 2003 elections, while a cousin, Prince Ali, won a provincial seat in the 2013 polls and was a minister in Qudoos Bizenjo’s cabinet. 

A young Nawab Akbar Bugti

Nawab Akbar Bugti held sway in Dera Bugti until his murder in a military operation in 2006. He won national and provincial assembly seats and got family members, including his son Saleem Bugti elected. He was briefly federal minister for the interior and defence in the late 1950s, governor  in 1973 and chief minister from 1989-90. His son-in-law, Mir Humayun Marri, remained caretaker chief minister in 1990 and deputy chairman of the Senate. After Nawab Bugti’s demise, his family members could not contest elections from Dera Bugti due to the law and order situation. In the 1988 elections, his opponents, Tariq Masoori and Ahmadan Bugti, got elected on national and assembly provincial seats, respectively. Masoori was replaced by his cousin, Sarfaraz Bugti, in the 2013 polls, while Akbar Bugti’s grandson, Mir Dostain Dombki, won a National Assembly seat.

The Magsi dynasty holds sway in Jhal Magsi and Shahdadkot, Sindh. The Magsis have a prominent position in both Sindh and Balochistan politics. Yousaf Magsi was a provincial minister in the 1973 PPP-led coalition. In the 1977 elections, his nephew, Nawab Zulfiqar Magsi, contested for the first time and won. Zulfiqar Magsi has remained an MPA since 1985, while his brothers were MNAs from Jhal Magsi. He held the slot of chief minister twice, first for a few months in 1993 and later from 1993 to 1996. He served as governor 2008-2013. His wife, Perveen Magsi, was elected as an MPA twice. His younger brother, Tariq Magsi, has been elected as an MNA and MPA, while another brother, Akbar Magsi, was a Senator from 2009 to 2015. His eldest son, Saif Magsi, was a Senator from 2012 to 2018. His two other brothers, Nadir and Amir Magsi, were elected to parliament from Sindh.

The late nationalist leader, Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri, and his family members have dominated the politics of Balochistan, particularly in their native Kohlu Marri area. He was elected on NA and PA seats simultaneously  from Quetta-Chaghi in the 1970 elections. He never contested elections again, choosing to pursue the politics of separatism, but his nephew and sons have participated in parliamentary politics. His eldest son, Changaiz Marri, who is now chieftain of the tribe, was minister for irrigation. Changaiz rebelled against his father and joined hands with the King’s party, renouncing armed struggle. His younger brother, Gazain Marri, who was also a minister in Magsi’s cabinet, returned to Pakistan last year, after giving up his 16-year self-exile. One of his brothers, Balach Marri, was elected MPA in 2003. Balach started an armed struggle in 2004 from the Kohlu mountains, but was killed in military action in 2007. Another brother, Hyrbiar Marri, who was a minister in Sardar Akhtar Mengal’s cabinet in 1997, has lived in London for the last 18 years, from where he has pursued the struggle for a separate homeland for the Baloch. Changaiz Marri also introduced his son, Boziar, and got him elected district chairman, Kohlu. 

The Jamali family is known for its allegiance to the military establishment. It shot into prominence when Mir Zafarullah Jamali ascended to the post of prime minister, courtesy General Pervez Musharraf. His cousin, Mir Taj Jamali and a nephew, Mir Jan Jamali, between them held the posts of chief minister, federal minister, deputy chairman Senate and Speaker, Balochistan Assembly. Zafarullah Jamali supported Nawaz Sharif for almost five years, but quit the party after Sharif’s confrontational stance against national institutions. Taj Jamali’s son, Changaiz, won the 2008 elections and was inducted into the federal cabinet. His nephew, Jan Jamali, and niece, Rahat Bibi, are MPAs while granddaughter, Sana Jamali, was elected a Senator in March 2018.

The Khosos are a dominant political force in Naseerabad, eastern Balochistan, and give the Jamalis a tough time on the National Assembly seat. However, the Jamalis enjoy support in influential circles and ultimately manage to swing things their way. 

The Dombkis live in Lahri, Sibi district. Sardar Chakar Khan Dombki, son-in-law of Nawab Akbar Bugti, won all the elections in his area from 1970 to 1997. After his protracted illness, his son, Bakhtiar Khan, was an MPA from 2002 to 2013. Sardar Sarfaraz became chieftain of the tribe after his father’s death in 2006, and was elected to the provincial assembly in 2013. He has held the position of minister for the last five years. Chakar Khan’s brother, Nabi Bakhsh, was a senator while his nephew, Dostain Dombki, was elected MNA in 2013 and inducted as state minister. Dostain has quit the PML-N to join the BAP.    


Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri meets a Baloch student.

The Mengals hail from Wadh area of Khuzdar district. Sardar Attaullah Mengal became the first NAP chief minister in 1973. In the party-less 1985 elections, Sardar Attaullah supported his relative, Mir Naseer Mengal. However his son, Sardar Akhtar Mengal, contested the 1988 polls and was in the ruling coalition led by Nawab Akbar Bugti. Due to court cases against him during the Musharraf regime, Akhtar Mengal fielded his relatives, Akbar Mengal and Abdur Rahman, in the 2003 and 2008 elections. His elder brother, Jawaid Mengal, was a Senator from 1994 to 2000.

The Zehris have been elected from 1985 onward in Ingira, Khuzdar district and Soorab, Kalat. Mir Ahmad Khan Zehri was elected from the Kalat-Soorab seat in 1985. In 1988, Sanaullah Zehri participated in the general elections for the first time, and since then has  retained his family seat in every election, except for one defeat at the hands of  JUI-F nominee Wadera Khaliq, in 1997. His younger brother, Mir Israr, won on the  Kakat-Soorab seat and later vacated the constituency for another brother, Mir Zaffarullah, who remained MPA from 2008 to 2018. Mir Israr became a Senator in 2012 and retired earlier this year. 

The Bhootanis, headed by Sardar Salah, have been active in provincial politics since the 1985  party-less elections. Salah won his hometown Durajee seat from Lasbela till 2003, when he fielded his brother, Aslam Bhootani, since he could not fulfil the graduation condition. He was the caretaker chief minister in 2007. Aslam was twice elected MPA and held the slot of speaker and deputy speaker, as well as  acting governor, Balochistan. In 2013, Saleh returned as an MPA. His son, Shahzad, was advisor to chief minister Qudoos Bizenjo.  

The Notezais, who earned the reputation of being involved in drug trafficking, came into the political limelight from 1985 onwards. They hail from Chaghi district, bordering Afghanistan and Iran. Haji Eid Mohammad Notezai was elected in the 1985 and 1988 elections. After his assassination in the 1990s, his younger brother, Ali Mohammad, was elected in the by-elections. Later, Sakhi Dost Notezai won elections from jail while facing drug trafficking changes. After his death in early 2000, his son Amanullah succeeded him. Amanullah was a provincial minister in the Raisani, Zehri and Bizenjo cabinets.  

The Khethrans live in Barkhan, bordering Punjab. Sardar Anwar Jan won the 1970 and 1977 elections on a provincial seat. After his death in the early 1980s, his brother, Sardar Ahmad Shah, returned to the provincial assembly in 1985. Later, Tariq Khethran, PPP’s Baz Khethran and Abdur Rahman retained the family seat. Rahman, the education minister in Jan Jamali’s 1999 cabinet, was disqualified for ten years on corruption charges. He got his wife elected for two consecutive terms in 2002 and 2008. Jamali returned to the assembly after his ban ended. 

Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo, Sardar Ataullah Mengal and Mir Gul Khan Nasir.

Abdus Samad Khan Achakzai struggled against British imperialism before Partition and later for the rights of the smaller provinces, from an NAP platform. Later, when Balochistan was given its name as a province, Samad Khan formed the Pashtoonkhwa NAP. He was defeated on a National Assembly seat in the 1970 elections, but won a provincial seat. After his death in 1973, in a bomb attack on his house, his son, Mahmood Khan, succeeded him. Mahmood Khan has won the National Assembly seat from his hometown, Killa Abdullah and Quetta city, in alliance with Nawaz Sharif. On the national and provincial reserved and direct seats, he nominated his brother, Dr. Hamid Khan, father-in-law Hameed Khan, brother-in-law Majeed Khan and sisters-in-law. When he was offered the governorship post-2013 by Mian Nawaz Sharif, Mahmood Khan nominated his elder brother, Mohammad Khan, who still holds the post. 

The Rinds came to the limelight in the 1985 elections, when Sardar Taj Mohammad got elected as an MNA from Kachhi. Later, the Magsis clinched the seat more than once. Sardar Yar Mohammad, the PTI’s provincial head, joined politics after being elected senator under the Zia regime. He won NA seats with the help of Nawab Akbar Bugti, on the JWP ticket. He fielded his brother-in-law, Amir Rind, and tribesman Shahzaman on a PA seat from Sani-Shooran, Bolan district. He introduced his son, Sardar Khan, who was elected district chairman.  

The Raisani family hails from Mastung and Kachhi districts. Nawab Ghous Bakhsh Raisani got elected in the 1970 and 1977 elections from Kachhi. He became the first civilian governor, in 1972. Ghous Bakhsh was killed in a tribal feud in 1986, and was succeeded by Nawab Aslam Raisani. He won the provincial seat from Mastung and was finance minister in Taj Jamali’s cabinet from 1990 to 1993, and became chief minister in 2008. His younger brother, Haji Lashkari, got elected on a provincial seat from Kachhi in the 1993 elections and served in Zulfiqar Magsi’s cabinet. Lashkari was also elected senator, but resigned after developing serious differences with Asif Ali Zardari.

The Bizenjos hail from Naal in Khuzdar district. Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo, a prominent NAP leader, became the governor of Balochistan in 1973. His eldest son, Mir Bezen, could not prove himself a fit political heir and was replaced by his younger brother, Mir Hasil Khan, who became an MNA and senator more than once. Now leading the National Party, he was federal minister for ports and shipping in Nawaz Sharif and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s cabinets. His brother-in-law, Sardar Aslam Bizenjo, won provincial seats and was a minister in various governments. His cousin, Tahir Bizenjo, got elected as a senator in 1998 for a limited term, and in 2018 for a full six-year term. 

Given their unbroken hold over electoral politics in Balochistan, it is to be expected that the tribal chiefs will remain on the right side of the establishment in the upcoming elections, to continue with the politics of pelf and privilege.