THE GUARDIAN. Sheik Khalifa Nando, the BARMM 'Wali' (waving Bangsamoro flaglet) was last seen in public on Jan. 25 during the opening ceremonies of the BARMM 4th founding anniversary in Cotabato City. He died on Sunday (Feb. 5, 2023) at age 82. (Photo courtesy of Bangsamoro Information Office - BARMM)

COTABATO CITY – Sheik Khalifa Nando, one of the founders of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), died Sunday. He was 82.

Nando, largely seen as the first symbolic head of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), was laid to his final resting place on the same day, officials said Monday.

“It is with a deep sense of loss that we express our condolences and sympathy to the family of Sheik Khalifa Nando, the Wali of the Bangsamoro on his return to the mercy of Allah,” lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo, BARMM interior minister and concurrent regional spokesperson, Sinarimbo said in a statement.

In Islam, “Wali” means a person of authority in the community.

Nando, whose cause of death was not stated, was last seen in public during the opening program of the BARMM 4th foundation anniversary last Jan. 25 together with BARMM acting Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim.  

Some 1,500 attended Nando’s burial at dusk Sunday in Barangay Kayaga, Pandag, Maguindanao del Sur, according to relatives and MILF leaders in attendance.

Defense Secretary Carlito G. Galvez Jr, also the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity was saddened by the passing of Nando.

“Wali Nando was considered a major pillar of the Bangsamoro peace process,” Galvez said in a statement sent to the MILF and BARMM leaders.

“His legacy of peace will continue beyond his passing,” he added.

Sheik Nando, also known as “Sheik Khalifa,” is one of the pioneers in the establishment of the MILF who studied at the Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, along with MILF founding chair Salamat Hashim.

As co-founder of the MILF, Nando served in various capacities including as chair of the MILF Central Committee on Education, chairman of Majlis Al-Shura (Consultative Assembly) and as head of the MILF Sharia Supreme Court.

During the inaugural session of the BARMM interim parliament on March 29, 2019, he was appointed as the first Wāli of the newly-constituted region. (PNA)