Monday, October 24, 2011

Nusrat Bhutto, 1929-2011

Much has already been written and will be written about Begum Nusrat Bhutto, who passed away yesterday. I don't wish to regurgitate those words (you can read more about her life and times here, here and here). But I do want to write a couple of lines for those who did not live through the times that really defined her (and most Pakistanis now, it should be recalled, were born after 1993) and who wonder what the massive outpouring of emotion at the death of an 82-year-old woman who had not been seen in public for more than a decade is all about.

Nusrat Bhutto with Chinese premier Zhou En Lai and Foreign Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1964 (Photo: Dawn)

To understand the connection that millions of people - and not just the supporters of the Pakistan Peoples Party - feel with Nusrat Bhutto, one must understand how her grace under pressure and in the face of overwhelming tragedy - here was a wife and mother who lived to see most of her immediate family wiped out - inspired countless others with her fortitude. Hers was a human story that transcended her class or her position in the elite stratosphere of politics. And yet, having lived a life of comfort and luxury for most of her early life, she was also never accused of being aloof from the trials and sufferings of the ordinary workers of the party she led after her husband's incarceration by the military. She had the 'touch' that made her more than just the wife of a wrongly-hanged leader. It could be argued that her real character and mettle only emerged when she was faced with the most demanding test of her private and public life. That she never wavered in her convictions is what endeared her to those millions who needed a figurehead symbol in the fight against the most brutal tyranny Pakistan has ever endured.


An injured Nusrat Bhutto at an impromptu anti-Zia rally in Lahore, 1977

At the same time, one must also acknowledge her symbolism, for those who mourn today, of a bygone era, before religious fanaticism and guns and venal corruption came to define this country's politics. When she stood, with blood streaming down her face from wounds inflicted by the sticks of General Zia's goons, she stood with a defiant moral authority that needed no certification from the media, maulvis or armed security guards.

Nusrat Bhutto, rest in peace.

15 comments:

Akhtar Rind said...

A must read article for surprised young generation. Pyalas once again came with incredible article after a long time.

Akhtar Rind said...

Really surprised to see the sick comments of young generation on facebook about great lady Nusrat Bhutto when Government announce Nisha-e-Pakistan for her. They don't know a thing about Zia dictatorship and its worst effect on Pakistan but eager to comment (by abusing) on those who actually struggled hard for restoration of democracy.

wandering soul said...

The passing of Begum Nusrat Bhutto marks the end of an era and the only link with the original progressive PPP.She was a lady of great courage,dignity and class and is rightly mourned and honoured for her many sacrifices.She was the indeed the best of the Bhutto's and with her passing Bhuttoism (if it ever existed) has come to its natural end, and the cult of Bhutto must be laid to rest.One hopes that the party tries to move on and re-invent itself lest it become a parody of a once great party.

Begum Nusrat Bhutto first Lady of Pakistan who truly understood what the party stood for, and strived that it maintained its socialist roots throughout her courageous life RIP

Anonymous said...

My mother volunteered in Mrs. Bhutto's office when she was the first lady. Mrs. Bhutto, from the stories I've heard from my mother, was a cultivated, elegant, and tenacious woman. We can only wish to have someone like her as a first lady again. RIP Mrs. Bhutto.

Forbidden Fruit said...

The youth is sick of the government bestowing its accomplices with sitaras/ nishaans and degrees. So now when someone deserving gets it, its ridiculed. Btw, Rehman Malik's services have been generously rewarded while he's still alive and kicking, why did they reserve the nishaan to be awarded posthumously to Begum Bhottu?

Sohaib said...

I am sorry about the loss but can anyone enlighen me with the number of schools/education institutes she provided to the people of Pakistan? Any considerable work that will be marked in Golden words forever apart fron the struggle against a dictator which died with the hanging of Mr Bhutto leaving an impression it was just to save the life of Mr. Bhutto?

critical of everything said...

what's this with these hyperbolic terms like 'incredible article'. this article just shows the writer's appreciation for a person who stood against dictatorship. I just wonder why do we people use so much of this hyperbolic language. if we are impressed with someone, we call them 'sir (it's always sir), last hope', Pakistan needs you' and all that kind of bullshit.
Things just don't need to be awesome nor people need to be superhuman to win our appreciation. because there are no awesome people nor are there any great ideas that would give us a utopia.

Salar Maiwand said...

@Sohaib, are you saying that anyone who is to be publicly mourned has to deserve it by doing something for the greater good of the public in his/her life?
And are you saying that only elites get mourned whereas poor die silently?
I partly agree with you. In our praise of the elites, we often forget that those who were beaten the most were people, those who were jailed were people. those who put their elite leaders at high positions were people. those who put with adversity despite myriad of day to day problems were people. I often think that why do we just ignore people and talk about the achievements as the achievements of the elites.
but I do mourn for Mrs. Bhutto as a mother and a wife. she faced a lot of tragedies in her life and that makes her a common woman, who daily see her children die in explosions.... Many common people can relate to her life. she was not the one who lived a secure life in an ivory tower.

Anonymous said...

bitch died, but left puppies.

Anonymous said...

democracy, democracy, democracy. what good she did for the country. NOTHING. NOT a single thing.

Alex khan said...

Her struggle against dictator Zia did a lot to keep the flame of PPP alight.

Unfortunately all the personal tragedies that she went through consumed her to point that she contracted a mental illness. Her relationship with Benazir turned sour after the death of Murtaza to the point that they were not on talking terms with each other.

AI said...

@Alex Khan, how do you know this that her relationship with Benazir turned sour after Murtaza's death? Can one just realize the pain, this lady had to suffer seeing her son killed during her daughter's rule and the allegation of murder on her son-in-law?

@Forbidden Fruit,
Rehman Malik has been awarded an honorary degree by a University who's chancellor is the governor of the province who's party is a clear beneficiary of Rehman Malik's benevolence. On the other hand, to give her an official honor, it has to be done by the President of Pakistan. One for sure could not expect Zia to give her any honor. Same is the case with GIK and then Farooq Leghari who went the Zia route.

Let me ask you one thing, had she been given an award in the last two years, wouldnt you have asked the question as to why she has been awarded considering she is nowhere to be seen?

Just give this lady a break. She suffered enormously in her life. She is an embodiment of sacrifice.

Farhan said...

Piyala have become a Jiyala :P

Khan said...

is it only me who thinks anonymous at 2:32 am is a disgusting person?

Haroon said...

@Khan: Just goes to show the sort of respect he has towards his own mother it seems.