Dr Abdul Hai Baloch who died in a road accident near Rahimyar Khan on February 25, exactly 25 days after his 76th. Birthday, was a symbol of courage and honour for the down trodden people of Balochistan.
Son of a hardworking farmer, Dr Hai rose from his humble background to attain the status of a national hero when he defeated Prince Yahya Jan Baloch, the scion of Khanate of Kalat in the 1970 general elections. That in itself was a big achievement, but the fact that he stood up and accepted the challenge of facing a member of the elite class in a tribal society such as Balochistan’s instantly endeared him to one and all in the province.
An Urdu newspaper headline on the day screamed, ‘Aik kissan key betey nay aik shahzadey ko intikhabaat mein shikast de di (a peasant’s son defeated a prince in the elections).
It was befitting to his personality and career that Dr Hai died in his boots, when he was on a political tour arranged by his colleagues in South Punjab to bring the political workers together on a single platform.
Dr. Hai was born in a remote, rather backward, area of Chalgari in Tahsil Bhag of Bolan district, around 250km south-east of Quetta. After completion of his early education, he got admission in Dow Medical College, Karachi where he became quite active in student politics.
In 1965, he became the founding member of Baloch Students Organization (BSO) which was an amalgamation of several student bodies such as Warna Wananda Gal (Organization of Educated Youth), Makran Student Organization and Baloch Student Educational Organization. Dr. Hai was elected as BSO’s first President while Mir Bezen Bezenjo, the elder son of late Mir Ghous Bakhsh Bezenjo, was elected as the Secretary General.
Despite being a qualified doctor, he never joined the medical profession and opted for a career in politics. He dedicated himself to the oppressed class, fighting for their rights and representing them at every forum, and continued to grow in stature and repute with the passage of time.
In the 1970 general elections, he was allotted a ticket by the National Awami Party for National Assembly seat NW-137 Kalat and received over 25000 votes as opposed to 12500 votes bagged by his rival candidate Prince Yahya Jan.
n 1973, Dr Hai was put behind bars along with the entire NAP leadership in the Hyderabad conspiracy case, in the wake of dismissal of NAP coalition government led by Sardar Attaullah Mengal. His unflinching belief in peaceful struggle led him to join the Pakistan National Party, which was formed by Mir Ghous Bakhsh Bezenjo in the late 1970s after the Baloch leadership of NAP decided to part ways with each other.
In the mid 1980s, following serious differences with Bezenjo, Dr Hai laid the foundations of the Balochistan National Youth Movement. He was elected as its president while the movement was headed by Dr. Malik Baloch. In 1987, Dr Baloch brought in Sardar Akhtar Mengal, the former chief minister, into the movement’s fold. His party contested the1988 general elections under the platform of Balochistan National Alliance which was led by Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti. BNA headed the coalition government in Balochistan after the 1988 elections with both JUI-F and PML as its partners.
Dr. Hai was elected a senator in 1994 but never actively returned to the parliament. He was among the three MNAs who refused to sign the 1973 constitution on grounds that his province Balochistan and its people have been totally ignored in the document. The other two who refused to sign were Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri and Jennifer Musa, the mother of former Ambassador Jahangir Ashraf Qazi and aunt of senior Judge of Supreme Court Qazi Faez Isa.
All through his career, Dr Hai was known as the leader of the masses, mainly because of his down to earth nature and humility. He He was often seen standing on the roadside waiting for public transport or a lift to his destination as he never owned a car. The rickshaw, taxi drivers would never charge him any fare.
The poor and the down trodden greatly admired him and would approach him with their problems. They would often gather at his residence in the morning and would ask him to accompany them to ministers and bureaucrats and help solve their issues. And Dr Hai was invariably there for them. He would never hesitate to speak to the ministers and bureaucrats about addressing the problems of the needy and deserving people and was often spotted at the civil secretariat for the purpose.
A very fit man for his age, Dr Hai attributed his good health to the long walks he undertook on a daily basis. He was a knowledgeable, wise man he was a central figure at most public gatherings where he would amuse people with his unique style of speech, taunting the rulers and oppressors who he referred to as ‘bey murad’ or ‘khana kharab’ (ill-fated or unfortunate).
In his personal life, Dr Hai was a good, caring father and within his meager resources, did his best to provide sound education to all of his all eight children (four daughters and four sons).
He was a true advocate of the oppressed and marginalized communities and was equally popular in Punjab, Sindh and other provinces due to his upright stance for the oppressed. To his credit, Dr Hai openly challenged the influential tribal chiefs and notables in the elections and even went to the extent of raising the anti-sardar slogan which earned him the wrath of the powerful sardars.
However, it is an irony is that despite his dedication and undying efforts for the common man, Dr Hai never really got his due from the people he struggle for. He would sometime privately complain against the spineless attitude of people and blamed them for not rising for their rights. He also felt sorry over the prevailing political system which, he said, was being dominated by undemocratic forces.
Dr. Hai was also a big critic of his own party which was led by Dr. Malik Baloch in the province. He blamed his partymen for making compromises over the rights of people and on the missing persons issues which led to a gulf between him and the party’s parliamentarians.
In the 2018 general elections, the party’s top leaders including late Mir Hasil Khan Bezenjo and a few others decided not to field him for the top slot of president. That prompted Dr Hai Baloch to quit his party and form the Pakistan Democratic Party. However, in 2021, he decided to revive the Balochistan National Movement and stayed with it.
His son Advocate Changaiz Chalgari, while sharing his memories, told Bol News that just a few weeks before his tragic death, he asked Dr Hai to quit politics and take it easy. “Running a political party required a lot of hard work which he used to do, but it also required a lot of resources which my father did not have.”
True to his bearings, Dr Hai replied to his son, “Let me contribute my share in the society by raising my voice for the voiceless communities and for true democracy in the country and the injustices being done to people of Balochistan. Only that would satisfy me.”