ISLAMABAD: A long and eventful but equally tragic chapter of the country’s political history ended on Sunday with the demise of Begum Nusrat Bhutto, the widow of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)’s founding chairman and former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
The former first lady breathed her last after protracted illness at a private hospital in Dubai, where her clinical death had already been declared. She was 82. She has left behind her only living daughter, Sanam Bhutto, to mourn her death, besides the children and spouse of her slain daughter, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, and late sons Murtaza Bhutto and Shahnawaz Bhutto.Presidential Spokesman Farhatullah Babar, confirmed that the former first lady had breathed her last in Dubai. President Asif Ali Zardari reached Dubai, cutting short his trip to Jordan. Interior Minister Rehman Malik said her body would arrive in Pakistan today and her funeral prayers would be offered in Garhi Khuda Bux after Zuhr prayers.
“Arrangements are being made to bring her body to Ghari Khuda Bux for burial. Further announcements will be made later,” Babar added. Sanam Bhutto and Nusrat’s grandchildren Bilawal, Bakhtawar and Asefa Bhutto Zardari, presently in the UK, are expected to arrive in Dubai soon to accompany Nusrat’s body on its long journey to its final resting place.Nusrat Bhutto was born in the Iranian city of Isfahan. She was twice elected a member of the National Assembly from Larkana and also led the PPP after her husband’s death. She was an Iranian-Pakistani whose father, a wealthy businessman, had settled in Karachi. Her maiden name was Nusrat Ispahnie and she hailed from the wealthy Hariri Isfahani family.
She met Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in Karachi, where they were married. Nusrat was his second wife, and they had four children together: Shahnawaz, Sanam, Murtaza and Benazir. Except for Sanam, Nusrat outlived all of her children. Shahnawaz died in exile, Murtaza was murdered in 1996 and Benazir was assassinated in 2007.After the execution of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto under the martial law imposed by General Ziaul Haq, she became her husband’s successor as chairwoman of the PPP and also led a movement against the Zia regime under the banner of Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD).
POLITICAL CAREER: As first lady from 1973-77, Nusrat functioned as a political hostess and accompanied her husband on a number of overseas visits. In 1979, after the trial and execution of her husband, she succeeded him as leader of the PPP. In 1982, while suffering from cancer, she was given permission to leave the country by the military government of General Ziaul Haq for medical treatment in London, at which point her daughter, Benazir, became acting leader of the party and by 1984, Benazir finally took over the party’s reins from her mother by replacing her as chairwoman of the PPP.After returning to Pakistan in the late 1980s, Nusrat served several terms as a member of the National Assembly from the family constituency of Larkana, Sindh. During the first government of Benazir Bhutto, she became a cabinet minister and senior minister.
SUFFERING: Nusrat Bhutto had to face personal losses almost all her life. Though she had observed patience at the hanging of her husband, she had to suffer another loss when her youngest and most beloved son Shahnawaz died in France under mysterious circumstances, allegedly by poisoning. But it was the murder of Murtaza Bhutto, also in unexplained circumstances, which she took to heart and finally lost her mental equilibrium.The successive deaths of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Shahnawaz and Murtaza left a big gap in the Bhutto family, leaving no immediate male member to protect and foster the political philosophy of the elder Bhutto. Murtaza’s death was the sequel of the tragedy for Nusrat, which started from the unjustifiable execution of his illustrious father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
With differences emerging between Benazir and Murtaza, the relationship between Benazir and her mother also suffered cracks. Finally, Nusrat and Benazir became estranged with Nusrat siding with Murtaza, who had serious differences with Benazir Bhutto and her husband Asif Ali Zardari and formed his own faction of the PPP.This also triggered a family dispute, but reportedly she later reconciled with Benazir after Murtaza’s murder in 1996. However, the death of Murtaza proved fatal for her health and she suffered from the combined effects of a stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.
She lived the last few years of her life with her daughter’s family in Dubai, where she breathed her last on Sunday.In a statement, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz President Nawaz Sharif also expressed his condolences at Nusrat’s demise. Several other political leaders also expressed their grief at her passing. In Larkana, PPP leaders including MNA Faryal Talpur, MPAs and a large number of party activists started gathering at Naudero after receiving news of Nusrat’s passing. – PT