ISLAMABAD - It is never easy to decline Prime Minister’s job unless you are religiously committed to your party – Makhdoom Amin Fahim was one of that kind.

With him the Pakistan People’s Party has lost a loyalist who would sacrifice anything and stand firm through thick and thin.

The veteran politician, 76, died in Karachi on Saturday after protracted illness. He was suffering from blood cancer. Fahim began his political career in 1970 and was elected as member of the National Assembly eight times.

When the 2002 general elections resulted in a hung parliament, military ruler Pervez Musharraf offered Prime Minister’s slot to him but unlike most politicians who die for a cabinet berth, Fahim outrightly rejected the offer showing his allegiance to the Bhutto family.

In the absence of Benazir Bhutto, he led the PPP in difficult times as its vice chairman during Musharraf’s military rule. He was named as the PPP Parliamentarians President when Musharraf introduced a specific law to keep Benazir Bhutto out of the elections in 2002. He kept this post until his death.

Fahim was twice appointed the federal minister in the first tenure of Benazir Bhutto. He was communications minister from December 1988 to August 1990, railways minister from December 1988 to March 1989 and in the next PPP term, he was minister for housing and works from January 1994 to November 1996.

He was seen as a possible chairman of the PPP, in the wake of the December 27, 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto, but Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Asif Ali Zardari were named party co-chairs and he was considered the party’s probable candidate for the prime minister.

Ironically, the PPP hesitated to name Fahim as its candidate following its victory in the February 2008 election. It was rumoured that Benazir Bhutto’s widower Asif Ali Zardari was reluctant to nominate Makhdoom Amin Fahim as the prime minister because he was worried he could strengthen his political base in Sindh and threaten the influence of the Bhutto family.

A perturbed Fahim said on March 15, 2008 that he could not understand why the PPP did not name him as its candidate for the premiership, adding he would only withdraw if Zardari himself wanted to contest for the top seat.

Later, the PPP nominated Yousuf Raza Gilani as prime minister on March 22, 2008. Although this was viewed as a snub to Fahim, he said he would not leave the PPP and had the ‘best wishes’ for Gilani.

He was made the commerce minister in November 2008 as a consolation. In the later years of his life, there were rumours he might quit the PPP but he discarded such reports every time.

He started his political activism in 1970 and contested successfully in the 1970 general elections and was a close ally of Benazir Bhutto during the 1990s.

Fahim was the spiritual figure of the Sarvari Jamaat as well as the prominent sufist in his native Sindh province.

His father, Makhdoom Mohammed Zaman was the 17th spiritual leader of Sarwari Jamaat and as well a powerful feudal figure in the province. His father was one of the prominent 67 participants who laid the foundation of the PPP where he was made the senior vice chairman of the party.

Makhdoom Mohammed Zaman ‘Talibul Mola’ successfully contested in the 1970 general elections and stepped into the national parliament as a member of parliament.

Makhdoom Zaman was also offered many high-ranking posts in the time of General Ziaul Haq, but he refused and chose to stay in Hala and look after his Sarwari Jamaat.

Makhdoom Amin contested eight elections in 1977, 1988, 1990, 1993, 1997, 2002, 2008 and 2013, remaining undefeated and creating a national record.

He, however, boycotted the non-party elections of 1985 held by General Ziaul Haq-led military regime in line with the decision of his party.

In 1993 he contested simultaneously for Sindh and National assembly seats and became the only politician to won both unopposed. Afterwards, he gave up the Sindh Assembly seat to his younger brother and he also won unopposed.

Shocked by his death, PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari paid glowing tributes to late Fahim as ‘a great pillar of strength of the party, a steadfast political loyalist and a person of great dignity and grace whom adversities failed to shake.’

“The death of Makhdoom Amin has created a void that will be hard to fill for a long time,” he said.

“Gifted with innumerable qualities of head and heart and possessing pleasing mannerism late Amin commanded the respect of people not only in his home town in Hala and his followers in the Sawari Jamaat but also throughout the country among people of all shades of political persuasion,” the former president said.

Ever since Makhdoom Talibul Mola hosted the first PPP convention in Sindh at his home in Hala in the 70s, Amin remained loyal to the party through thick and thin, he added.

“The passing away of Amin is a great loss to the members of bereaved family no doubt but it is also a loss of the party and indeed of everyone who came in contact with him,” he said.

Zardari said that death is the greatest reality of life and every one must face it one day. In his last days, Amin Fahim appeared fully prepared to face this reality with equanimity and courage that will inspire many, he remarked.

He recalled, when the prophets of gloom and doom thrived on predicting his imminent exit from the party Amin Fahim silenced them with a cryptic one liner: “Amin Fahim and PPP are inseparable.”

PPP vice president Senator Sherry Rehman said the PPP had lost a most reliable confidant, the most distinguished of politicians, and the best of human beings.

Senator Sherry said Fahim’s father Talibul Moula was one of the founding members of the PPP and during the exile of Benazir Bhutto he led party affairs with great commitment.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also expressed deep grief and sorrow over the demise of Amin Fahim.

Information Minister, Pervaiz Rashid, Punjab Governor Malik Mohammed Rafique Rajwana, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and leaders of major parties too shared the grief.