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October 24, 2011

Nusrat goes with many historic secrets

October 24, 2011

ISLAMABAD: “I know that my husband was not hanged, they killed him in jail and I fear they will also kill Murtaza and Benazir because they want to finish the whole Bhutto family”.
These were the words late Begum Nusrat Bhutto said to me in 1995. She was the wife of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, mother of another prime minister Benazir Bhutto and mother-in-law of President Asif Ali Zardari — yet her life was full of pain and miseries. She bravely faced the deaths of her husband and younger son Mir Shah Nawaz Bhutto but virtually collapsed after the murder of her elder son Mir Murtaza Bhutto. She left this world on October 23, 2011 at the age of 82 with many historical secrets in her heart.
Begum Nusrat Bhutto met her husband Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto 41 times in central jail Rawalpindi between May 19, 1978 and April 3, 1979. Her husband made it clear to her he was not interested in seeking pardon and that his family must be ready for a long political and legal battle.
One Libyan diplomat contacted her through a lawyer of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and delivered her a message from Libyan ruler Muammer Qaddafi who offered to release her husband in a commando operation. Another Palestinian diplomat also gave a similar idea to Begum Nusrat Bhutto. She gave these messages to her husband in jail but Bhutto said: “I am not a coward, I don’t want to escape and take refuge in any other country. I would like to be killed by the Army and not by history”.
She filed a constitutional petition in the Supreme Court against martial law but the court approved martial law. Her name became part of our legal history as the “Nusrat Bhutto vs. Chief of Army Staff Case.” Begum Nusrat Bhutto never gave up after the death of her husband. She took over Pakistan People’s Party as its chairperson and then led a remarkable struggle against the military regime.
She was the first woman head of a political party in Pakistan. She led a historic rally in Qaddafi

stadium in 1978 where she was attacked by the Lahore police and her head was fractured in the baton charge.
She launched the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) on February 6, 1981 at 70 Clifton, Karachi with Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan, Khawaja Khairudin, Meraj Muhammad Khan, Fatehyab Ali Khan, Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan and others. After a few days Sardar from Azad Kashmir ditched Begum Nusrat Bhutto and joined hands with General Ziaul Haq. Begum sahiba approached Khan Abdul Wali Khan, Maulana Fazalur Rehman, Asghar Khan and Rasul Bakhsh Palijo and many others. She lost one party and convinced many big political guns to fight for democracy. She became a threat to military regime and then she was imprisoned.
I interviewed Begum Nusrat Bhutto many times between 1987 and 1995 but she stopped speaking to the media after the assassination of her son Mir Murtaza Bhutto. Once she told me how she met Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto for the first time. She was only 11 when she met the Bhutto family at Khandala, a tourist resort near Mumbai. One sister of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto became friend of young Nusrat. Her name was Munawarul Islam. Nusrat and Munawar remained in contact with each other but she never met young Zulfi for the next 9 years. She studied at St Joseph College Karachi with her sister Behjat and Syeda Akhtar Zehra Isphahani, the mother of Farah Naz Isphahani.
She met Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto again after 9 years in Karachi in the wedding of Munawarul Islam in 1949. Nusrat was a captain in the National Guard at that time. Zulfi was impressed to see her in Army uniform. He proposed her when he was a student at Oxford University in England in 1951. There was a problem. Zulfi was already married. Nusrat refused to marry Zulfi. One day he met her father Mirza Muhammad Najaf at his residence and explained that he was married in the family when he was only 14 years. He had no children from his first marriage.
Zulfi promised that he would keep Nusrat happy for the whole life. Mirza Muhammad Najaf was satisfied and then he convinced his daughter that there is no harm in marrying Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. It is also important that Zulfi never married second time secretly. He informed his first wife Ameer Begum that he was going to marry again but he never disclosed anything about Nusrat. When Zulfi and Nusrat got married in 1951 Ameer Begum’s father invited them to a dinner. It was a good beginning. Nusrat never had any problem with Ameer Begum for the rest of her life.
The young couple spent some good time together in Paris and Rome for honeymoon and then moved to Oxford. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was living in hostel and Nusrat was living in a hotel. Zulfi used to address his wife as “Nusratam” which meant my Nusrat. It was a difficult time for them but both were very happy on the birth of their first child Benazir in 1953. Nusrat was a close friend of Naheed Mirza who was wife of Governor General Sikandar Mirza and that was how young Bhutto was introduced to General Ayub Khan who later appointed him as his commerce minister and then foreign minister.
She played a very important political role after 1967 when her husband resigned from the Ayub cabinet after Tashkent agreement with India. She organised the women wing of PPP with Begum Nadir Khan Khakwani (mother of Beelam Husnain MNA) Ruqqia Soomro and Begum Shehzada Suleman from Chitral. As the first lady of the country she played a very active role to organise the Red Crescent in Pakistan.
Begum Nusrat Bhutto was near to death in 1982 when cancer was diagnosed in her lungs. At that time she and Benazir Bhutto were imprisoned. She was allowed to go abroad on medical grounds and that was how she handed over the leadership of the party to Benazir Bhutto. It was Begum Sahiba who convinced her daughter Benazir to marry Asif Ali Zardari in 1987.
She always stood by her son-in-law except for a short period in 1993 when she wanted her son Murtaza to become member of the Sindh Assembly. She never believed that her beloved husband was hanged in Rawalpindi jail. She was sure that her husband was murdered before his hanging. She always wanted that somebody must investigate the murder of her husband and prove that the court verdict against Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in a murder case was not based on facts.
Her son-in-law Asif Ali Zardari filed a petition in the Supreme Court sometime ago against the “judicial murder” of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto but she left this world without hearing the final verdict in that case.

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