A literary spirit

Zareen Ara Zardari is remembered for her bond with her stepchildren and her literary connections

A literary spirit


eople knew her as Zareen Ara Zardari or Timmy Bukhari, the second wife of Hakim Ali Zardari and stepmother of former president Asif Zardari, Faryal Talpur, Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho and Fauzia. Still, only a few were aware of the fact that she had a deep influence on her stepchildren. Several close friends of the Zardari family say that the former president respected and loved her a lot. She was the one who would admonish him for his mistakes. He would listen to her. She breathed her last on June 22 at a Karachi hospital after a prolonged illness.

Being the stepmother of Asif Zardari and a friendly step mother-in-law to Shaheed Benazir Bhutto had made her a prominent person. But she had had her own prominence before marrying Hakim Zardari in the late 1960s as an eminent person in literary circles in Pakistan and abroad. She was the first Pakistani woman to get a PhD in English literature from Cambridge University. She had regular communications with literary titans because of her father, Zulfiqar Ali Bukhari aka ZA Bukhari, the first director-general of Radio Pakistan, a poet, a composer and a writer and her uncle, Ahmed Shah Bukhari Patras, aka Patras Bukhari.

Family sources said she had regular communications with TS Eliot, the modern era American-British poet, who was also a friend of ZA Bukhari. She was also in contact with British fiction writer Edward Morgan Forster before her marriage to Hakim Zardari. She was also in contact with her father’s literary network and had met people like Attia Hosain, the famous Indian novelist, and Mulk Raj Anand, a pioneer of Indian-Anglican fiction.

Senator Taj Haider, tells TNS, “She was a kind-hearted, loving and learned lady. The love and grief expressed by her stepchildren speak tonnes about her personality. She had won their hearts and influenced their personalities.”

“She was a kind-hearted, loving and learned lady. The love and grief expressed by her stepchildren speak tonnes about her personality. She had won their hearts and influenced their personalities.

She remained issueless but raised her stepchildren along with their biological mother Bilquis Sultana Effendi, a granddaughter of Hasan Ali Effendi, the founder of Sindh Madrisatul Islam, with equal affection. “She took the proposal of Asif Zardari for Shaheed Benazir Bhutto to Late Begum Nusrat Bhutto in the UK,” said Haider.

He said that she would come to see her son, Asif Zardari, in the courts and would make gestures of love not only for him but also for other PPP workers and supporters. “She was quite famous in Karachi’s literary circles and would encourage the new literary talent and publications. When the PPP launched its magazine, Ujala, she told me that the name matches the party’s cause.”

Another source close to the former president Zardari told TNS, “The former president would never disobey her. In his youth, she would scold him over petty mistakes as a gesture of love and care.”

It is said that Hakim Zardari had proposed to her in the late 1960s when he was producing the film Dhoop aur saye (The film was produced in 1968).”

She had been ill and was admitted in a private hospital in Karachi, where she passed away on June 22. The PPP Media Cell, in its statement said, “The former president’s mother Zareen Ara Zardari passed away in Karachi.”

The former president cancelled his engagements in Islamabad and reached Nawab Shah where her body was taken for burial. He stayed at his hometown for three days to receive condolences. She was laid to rest at Zardari Tribes graveyard in Nawab Shah (Shaheed Benazirabad).

The writer is a senior journalist, teacher of journalism, writer and analyst. He tweets at @BukhariMubasher

A literary spirit