The leader of a major religious party; a former princely ruler; a major feudal grandee; a leftist intellectual; a Baloch nationalist leader; and a former ambassador to Tunisia – what do these men have in common? Simply, they were among the 13 chief ministers of vastly disparate backgrounds who held office during the Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto years (1971-1977).
The recent deaths of two of this number, Mumtaz Bhutto and Attaullah Mengal, have nearly closed this ancient chapter. I say “nearly” because one chief minister of that bygone period is still on terra firma, namely Malik Ghulam Mustafa Khar.
Since many of these chief ministers significantly impacted political life, it is interesting to note key trivia concerning them.
Attaullah Mengal, Balochistan’s first chief minister (1972–1973), is one of three chief ministers ever whose son also became chief minister. His son Akhtar Mengal served as Balochistan’s chief executive a quarter of a century after his father (1997-1998).
Interestingly, Balochistan provides the only other examples of a father-son duo of chief ministers. The first pair was that of Jam Ghulam Qadir (1973-1974 & 1985-1988), and his son, Jam Yusuf (2002-2007), while the second pair was Jam Yusuf and his son, Jam Kamal (2018-2021). Thus, the Jams have the singular distinction of providing three generations of chief ministers.
Jam Ghulam Qadir is the only former princely ruler (he ruled Lasbela State from 1937-1955) to ever become chief minister and also the only chief minister of the 1970s to ever be re-elected as chief minister in subsequent years.
Ironically, Attaullah Mengal and Mumtaz Bhutto – political enemies of the 1970s – joined forces in the 1980s under the banner of the Sindh Baloch Pakhtun Front (SBPF) to struggle for a confederal Pakistan. Unsuccessful in this quest, they soon parted ways, but while Mengal remained wedded to Baloch nationalist politics to the end, Mumtaz Bhutto re-embraced federalism, first by merging his Sindh National Front into the PML-N and subsequently by joining the PTI.
A few further trivia points of the 1970s chief ministers are noteworthy.
First, the election of JUI head Maulana Mufti Mehmood as Chief Minister of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP, now Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa) in April 1972 marked the only occasion to-date for a cleric to serve as chief minister.
Second, the PPPs Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi (CM Sindh 1974-1977) and Malik Mairaj Khalid (CM Punjab 1972-1973), were the only chief ministers of this era to later become prime minister, albeit of the caretaker brand. In a strange twist of fate, in turn both men attained the caretaker premiership upon the dismissal of the first and second governments of Benazir Bhutto, their former leader’s daughter.
Third, these 13 men counted among their ranks one genuine intellectual with a remarkable grasp over history, religion, art, linguistics, journalism and politics. This was Mohammed Hanif Ramay, who served as Punjab chief minister for a little over a year (1974-1975), before falling out with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto on the question of provincial autonomy. His writings and calligraphic works left an imprint on the nation’s literary and artistic heritage; in particular, Ramay’s famous book Punjab Ka Muqaddama was a bold attempt to argue the case for Punjab on a factual and historical basis in response to the grievances of the other provinces.
In the 1993 election, Ramay was re-elected to the Punjab Assembly and served as the speaker of the provincial legislature. This made him the only Punjab chief minister ever to serve as the provincial assembly speaker after leaving the chief-ministership.
The election of JUI’s Maulana Mufti Mehmood as Chief Minister NWFP in April 1972 marked the only occasion to-date for a cleric to serve as chief minister
A dubious record of one of the subject chief ministers was to be defeated for re-election. Nasrullah Khattak, CM of the NWFP from 1975-1977, and formerly ambassador to Tunisia, was the man in question. His defeat in 1977 marked the only occasion – from 1971 to the present day – for a sitting chief minister to be defeated at the hustings.
At the end, it would be remiss not to mention the last surviving chief minister of the 1970s, Ghulam Mustafa Khar. Once the right-hand man of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and touted by the latter as his likely successor, the ambitious Khar over-played his hand and often crossed swords with his mentor, resulting in his premature ouster as chief minister in 1974.
Undoubtedly, Mustafa Khar has had an eventful and colorful political career spanning nearly six decades. The former Sher-e-Punjab’s political journey began as a member of the 1962 National Assembly (he is the last surviving member of that body), and he went on to serve twice as Punjab governor, once as Punjab chief minister, several times as a federal minister and six times as an MNA from Muzaffargarh. Presently a PTI member, electoral success has eluded him since the late 1990s.
Khar has been an eyewitness to many seminal events, ranging from the last meeting between Bhutto and Sheikh Mujib in Rawalpindi in 1971, the dismissal of Lt General Gul Hasan and Air Marshal Rahim Khan, the framing of the 1973 Constitution and the holding of the OIC Summit of 1974 in Lahore. What a gripping tale he could tell, if he repays his debt to history and pens his unvarnished memoirs!
The writer is a barrister with over twenty years of varied legal practice in Pakistan, UAE and Australia. He is currently an entrepreneur and the co-founder/operator of an online home-based confectionery business. The history and politics of Pakistan is his abiding passion. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org