Baba Haider Zaman rose to prominence in Hazara’s politics during the latter part of his life after he led a movement for a separate Hazara province. Though he didn’t manage to form a separate province, his name is now synonymous with the movement.
Baba Haider may have died but gave a new life to the Hazara province movement.
He belonged to the Karlal tribe of Hazara division and was born in the Manal village of Abbottabad in 1934. He completed his FA in the 1950s and joined the Pakistan Air Force. After retirement, he entered politics in 1962 but failed to win a provincial seat.
His first political win was when he got elected to the NWFP assembly from Abbottabad in 1985. The then chief minister Arbab Jehangir Khan appointed Zaman as the labour and human resource minister in his cabinet.
From ‘Sardar’ to ‘Baba’
The story of how ‘Baba’ replaced ‘Sardar’ in Haider Zaman Khan’s name is interesting.
When Zaman took oath as a provincial member of the then NWFP assembly, he was older than the rest. He took oath from all provincial assembly members and hence got the title of ‘Baba’.
During his political career, he was elected to the NWFP assembly, now known as the KP Assembly, twice from Abbottabad. He was district nazim and Abbottabad district council chairman as well. He was arrested during the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy during General Ziaul Haq’s regime.
He contested most elections as an independent candidate, however, he was also part of the Pakistan Muslim League-Junejo and PML-Q at one point. He contested the National Assembly seat against Nawaz Sharif in 1990 and 1993 separately but failed to beat him. His political career almost came to an end due to this.
But in 2010, when it was decided to change NWFP’s name, Zaman gained power and became a ‘Kingmaker’.
In the 2008 elections, the PPP formed the government in the Centre and the ANP in NWFP. It was part of ANP’s manifesto to rename the province. It got easier for them to do so because both parties were allies.
Hazara division’s political leaders opposed the idea and hinted at making Hazara a new province at many instances, however, the demand did not gain momentum. But when the 18th Amendment was passed on April 9, 2010, NWFP’s name was changed to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. This enraged the people of Hazara.
They reacted so strongly to the name change that it led to violent protests across the region resulting in seven deaths and 200 injuries. Sharae Resham was closed for all traffic for a week and violent protests damaged property worth billions. Areas where people spoke Hindko became no-go areas for people who spoke other languages.
This movement was led by Zaman. Politicians from all parties of Hazara came under one umbrella and started the Hazara province movement with great enthusiasm. Zaman gained international recognition for leading the movement. This was the peak of Baba’s career as Hazara politicians considered his blessing a kind of achievement.
In 2018, he submitted his papers for NA-15 and NA-16 but later withdrew from contesting the elections on June 22. He appointed Sardar Gohar Zaman as his political heir.
Baba’s political career came to an end on June 22 and he passed away on October 24. It is yet to be seen that whether the Hazara province movement will be buried with his death or another Zaman will keep it alive.