Pakistan: The Death of Nusrat Bhutto

The recent demise of Nusrat Bhutto, former first lady and wife of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, was mourned across the country. At the age of 82, Nusrat Bhutto died at her deceased daughter Benazir Bhutto's residence in Dubai, after a long battle with Alzheimer's.

Cafe Pyala‘s heartfelt tribute gives a historic perspective of Nusrat Bhutto's legacy for the youth that did not witness her era:

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.

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.

Nusrat Bhutto (first from left) at Japan Consulate dinner. Image from Flickr by Altaf Shaikh CC BY-NC-ND

Nusrat Bhutto (second from right) at Japan Consulate dinner. Image from Flickr by Altaf Shaikh CC BY-NC-ND

A country-wide mourning was announced, declaring a public holiday on Monday 24 October, 2011; banks, educational institutes and even courts remained close. This triggered a wave of reactions from people questioning the government's logic behind declaring a national holiday, that would inevitably hurt the country's already battered economy.

@Reallyvirtual: Son's school declared a holiday tomorrow… they waste our lives when they're alive, they waste our lives when they die.

@lablinks: When a country becomes family business, shutting down the shop upon a death in the family is to be expected.

@ReallyVirtual: and they damage the economy of the country, consecutive three bank holiday. Shame.

@jehan_ara: So Cabinet Meeting will not be held on Wednesday. Can someone explain how that will honour Begum Nusrat Bhutto? Mourn but why stop working?

@bhopalhouse: I should like to live in a Pakistan where Nusrat Bhutto's death would mean more Alzheimer's research rather than a pointless public holiday.

@umairjav :My facebook timeline is full of angry ‘youths’ cursing the PPP govt. for conferring a posthumous award on Nusrat Bhutto. Yep, we're doomed.

@sarahnaq : When we are happy, we announce a holiday, when we are sad, we announce a holiday. Friday we don't work, Sunday is obviously holiday..#pakistan

@akchisti: Nusrat Bhutto was great & I condole her death but, declaring a holiday is just “unfair” & contrary to perhaps her own views. #PPP #Pakistan

@shakirhusain: RIP Nusrat Bhutto. I wish there was a better way for the State to celebrate her than a public holiday. #Pakistan

@thekarachikid: There needs to be a countrywide SMS alert system set up to sort out these holiday announcement issues. #pakistan

Even though a number of government officials actively use Twitter, none of them used it to engage on the issue. Nevertheless, Nusrat Bhutto is known and respected for her struggle against one of the most brutal dictatorship in the country's history. Even those in disagreement with her politics paid tribute to her legacy.

Ghazala Akber on Paktea house wrote an obituary:

Love them, loathe them, praise them, abuse them — our opinions are impassioned and divided when it comes to the Bhuttos. But wherever we are located on the political spectrum – however polarised our views — and – whatever our feelings regarding the present government – in this we generally agree: that in the annals of our cataclysmic political history, in the epic battle for Democracy against Dictatorship – the House of Bhutto has paid a huge and hefty price in blood, sweat and tears.  [..}

One would have to have a heart of stone not to feel a tinge of sadness and remorse at the passing away on October 23 of its doyenne, Mrs. Nusrat Bhutto — former First lady of Pakistan, wife of a Prime Minister, Mother of a Prime- Minister and Mother-in-law of a President.

Nusrat Bhutto's husband, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hanged during the dictatorship of General Zia-ul-Haq. History remembers Zia-ul-haq not only as a dictator but for his era that witnessed the Soviet invasion, the ISI and CIA alliance that led to the creation of the Taliban.

Cafe Pyala recalls the moment in time:

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.

As Pakistanis pay farwell to Begum Nusrat Bhutto hopes linger that acknowledging her symbolism may give strength to a nation plagued with extremism.

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