Leader of opposition in PaK assembly dies

Greater Kashmir

MUZAFFARABAD, Sept 2: Leader of the opposition in PaK Legislative Assembly and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) central executive committee member Sahibzada Mohammad Ishaq Zaffar died of cardiac failure on Saturday. He was 62.
Zaffar was in Islamabad for some days where he developed serious chest pain at about 5 pm while he was at the residence of his son in law. He was immediately rushed to the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology but died on the way, his eldest son Sahibzada Ashfaq Zaffar said.
A law graduate, who had also earned masters degree in political science and Urdu from the Karachi University , Mr Zaffar began practical life as a junior teacher in the PaK education department, serving in Neelum and Jhelum valleys. However, the flair of politics compelled him to quit the government job in early seventies.
He was among the founder members of PPP when it was launched by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in Azad Jammu and Kashmir in 1972.
Except for a brief interval, he remained associated with the party in the most adverse situations and was sent behind the bars on many occasions during his untiring struggle for revival of democracy in Pakistan and PaK. He was also jailed by Muslim Conference government of Sardar Sikandar Hayat during opposition parties’ campaign against the alleged rigging in local body polls in 1987.
Sahibzada Zaffar became PaK Legislative Assembly member for the first time in 1975 after the parliamentary form of government was introduced in the region. He did not contest election in 1985 due to their boycott by the PPP. However, in 1990 he contested and won elections and was elected as speaker. He also briefly served as acting PaK president after premature dissolution of the assembly by then prime minister Raja Mumtaz Hussain Rathore in March 1991.
Zaffar stayed away from the polls in 1991 but won all the three elections afterwards held in 1996, 2001 and 2006, respectively.
From 1996 to 2001, he remained senior minister in Barrister Sultan Mahmood led PP government and was equally accredited by friends and foes for efficiently handling most complex situations for the government at the floor of the assembly and outside.
In Sept 2004, Benazir Bhutto appointed him Peoples Party PaK chapter president. But his presidentship witnessed many upsets in the party which ultimately culminated in emergence of Peoples Muslim League under the leadership of Mahmood.
However, under Zaffar’s leadership, the PP-PaK won seven seats in July 11 elections. Later, it clinched one of five special seats for women in indirect elections which raised the party’s strength to eight.
After the elections, Bhutto gave him a choice either to retain the office of party president or become leader of the opposition in the assembly and on account of his bad health he opted for the latter position.
Zaffar hailed from Gujjar tribe but he never did the politics of biradri, which has otherwise plagued the region. His father, grandfather and great grandfather were renowned religious saints whose shrines are visited by thousands of devotees in Banni Hafiz village of Hattian Bala.
Zaffar is survived by two wives and 11 children, including six sons and five daughters. Last month he suffered a tragedy when his seventh son died of gastroenteritis.
The body of Zaffar was on way to Muzaffarabad at the time of filing of this report and hundreds of people had gone there to receive it.
According to Ashfaq Zaffar, the funeral prayers would be held in Hattian Bala on Sunday at 3 pm, after which the body would be taken to Banni Hafiz for burial in their ancestral graveyard.
Meanwhile, political and religious leaders from different parties called Ashfaq Zaffar and condoled with him on the death of his father, terming it a loss for the Kashmiris.