ISLAMABAD: Begum Kulsoom Nawaz has passed away. She has left behind two sons in London who can’t come to Pakistan for her funeral. She has left behind her husband and daughter, who couldn’t go to see her because they are in jail. In short, she has left behind a family in crisis.
For her husband, this is yet another crisis which is more emotional than political. Nawaz Sharif is grieved at the passing of the life-partner with whom he spent 47 years. He has lost the wife who was not only wife; she was his strongest political support in times of adversity.
Her strong resistance in the face of Musharraf’s dictatorship, when Nawaz was thrown in the Attock Fort, still haunts the public memory. It was referred to in almost all the condolence messages issued by his political opponents.
He has lost the wife whose illness was widely ridiculed. She was on a ventilator when the propaganda machinery of Nawaz's detractors was spewing unfiltered comments about the serious issue of mental health. Even in tragic times, such opponents were ruthless.
Many went on to speculate that she had died and the Sharif family was waiting for the opportune time to make an announcement. This was when the generals elections were round the corner. The opponents thought empathising with Nawaz's wife might bring him political sympathies when all forces had joined hands to portray him as a villain.
Nawaz Sharif has lost the wife whose London hospital bedside he had spent weeks at, waiting for her to regain consciousness. Back in Pakistan, the accountability court was in a hurry to deliver its judgment in the Avenfield Apartment reference before the elections were held. His plea to postpone the verdict for a week was rejected, even though he said he only wanted to hear the voice of his ailing wife before returning to face judgment day.
He might have had the chance to see her one last time, had the Islamabad High Court decided to suspend the accountability court’s sentence. It is hard to read the minds of judges, but the manner in which the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) found itself defenceless before the court, and the observations of the two-member bench hearing the case, suggested that Nawaz's plea was at least plausible in its eyes.
For Nawaz Sharif, his children are another source of sadness. They have lost their mother. Maryam, his daughter, is with him in jail. The thought that the departed soul wanted to see her daughter must also be hurtful for Nawaz. The fact that Maryam didn’t speak to her mother, lest she came to know they are in jail, is something that might haunt her for life.
While Nawaz Sharif and Maryam would be released on parole to attend the funeral, Hassan and Hussain won’t accompany the dead body of their mother. This would also hurt their father who, himself, was unable to attend the burial of his father, Mian Sharif.
The entire family was in exile in Saudi Arabia at the time of the passing of the elder Sharif. The Musharraf government didn’t allowed Nawaz to accompany his father’s dead body to Lahore. Now his sons have met the same fate. Although there is no official ban on their return, they would be arrested on arrival because the accountability court has declared them proclaimed offenders.
This has not only happened to Nawaz Sharif. The Bhutto family underwent an identical crisis after the hanging of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Begum Nusrat Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto were detained at Sihala Rest House on the outskirts of Islamabad. They were allowed a last meeting without being told it was the last. The family only came to know when ZAB insisted that the jailer tell them.
When his corpse was airlifted to Larkana for burial, the wife and daughter were not allowed to participate. Zia-ul-Haq said that Islam does not allow women to attend funerals. ZAB's sons Murtaza Bhutto and Shahnawaz Bhutto were in exile at the time. So the funeral was attended by just a dozen people.
The murder case that resulted in the hanging of ZAB later turned out a fabricated act of litigation and Justice Naseem Hassan Shah, who was a member of the bench which handed him the death sentence, later admitted the judges did so under pressure from the military.