Monday, 5 June 2017

QK archives: In remembrance of 4 politicians

In remembrance of 4 Frontier politicians
Rahimullah Yusufzai
Circa 2003

A number of former legislators from the NWFP died recently and each one of them deserved a proper obituary. Sadly though their deaths went largely unnoticed in our print and electronic media.

Tribal parliamentarian Malik Sakhi Jan Mahsud was the first to die. Nazeer Shinwari and Nawabzada Mohabbat Ali Zafar, both belonging to Kohat district, followed. Dr Mahboobur Rahman, a former federal minister who had become district nazim of Swat, too passed away.

All of them were important in their own right. Except the last-named, others were no longer in the limelight and, therefore, forgotten. Dr Mahboobur Rahman was a very active district nazim. Being a politician, he also knew how to remain in the news. One would see him in print all the time, even if he made promises that seldom materialized.

Zafar was the youngest of the lot. He had been winning and losing elections from his native Kohat, having inherited politics from his late father and former provincial minister, Nawabzada Azmat Ali Khan. He too served as a provincial minister, once holding the portfolio of jails. He lost to ANP’s Shaukat Habib in last year’s elections as a PPP-Sherpao nominee.

A tall, handsome man, Zafar kept a low profile and preserved his humility despite his aristocratic background. In a recent obituary, prolific column-writer Dr Zahoor Ahmad Awan wrote that Zafar sold his ancestral lands to pursue politics. Here was a rare case of a politician losing rather than making money despite remaining in power. According to Dr Awan, Zafar also pursued other interests, like reading and swimming.

Unlike Zafar who died young, Mahsud lived a long and full life. Again unlike Zafar, he wasn’t born into a rich family and had to struggle for a livelihood in Karachi far away from his native South Waziristan tribal agency. Eventually, he became a big transporter in Karachi and used his wealth and tribal connections back home to win a seat in parliament. The sight of the well-built Mahsud with his tall turban in the Senate and in state functions attracted immediate attention. As a tribal Senator, he used his considerable rural wisdom to make friends and extend influence. It was said, though never confirmed, that he even managed to convince President Bush Senior to ask the then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to appoint his civil servant brother as a Commissioner. That he is how the term “Bush Commissioner” originated!

Shinwari belonged to Jangalkhel, which is a rustic village with its tribal code of honour in the urban setting of Kohat. It was in the 1985 partyless elections that Shinwari tried his luck in the polls and won a provincial assembly seat. The silver-haired Shinwari stood out in the House more for his appearance than for his performance on the floor. Most of the assembly members then were first-timers and the sessions were largely a process of learning for those who cared to pick up the finer points of legislative business. Shinwari was among the lot that was keen to learn the tricks of the trade and he was doing quite well by the time the assembly was dissolved. His friendly nature enabled him to befriend anyone who came into contact with him.

Among the four deceased politicians discussed in this column, Dr Mahboobur Rahman was probably the most successful. He won election as an MNA from Swat in 1988 and became a minister of state in prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s government. In a subsequent election, he was elected an MPA and was made a provincial minister. He remained loyal to the mainstream PPP all his life even though his election as district nazim, Swat meant that he had to forego his membership of the party. A solution to this predicament was found when he made his son, Salimur Rahman, an office-bearer of the PPP Swat chapter. The PPP was thus kept alive under the same family roof.

Mahsud, Zafar, Shinwari and Dr Mahboobur Rahman, all good men who died largely unsung. They surely deserved more than this joint obituary.
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