NAUDERO: A final farewell for a woman who had been out of the public eye since the ’90s ensured that she will be remembered for many years to come.
The iconic Begum Nusrat Bhutto, the former first lady who has been christened the Mother of Democracy, was laid to rest in the Bhuttos’ ancestral graveyard in Garhi Khuda Bux, right next to her husband, Pakistan’s first democratically-elected prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Her sons Mir Murtaza and Shahnawaz and her daughter, two-time prime minister Benazir Bhutto, are buried in the same compound.
Begum Bhutto’s only surviving progeny, Sanam Bhutto, arrived at the Sukkur Airport half an hour after the plane carrying Begum Bhutto’s body arrived from Dubai, where she passed away on Sunday.
Sanam was accompanied by her sister Benazir’s husband, President Asif Ali Zardari, and children Bilawal, Bakhtawar and Aseefa Bhutto-Zardari.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik also accompanied them, while Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani landed shortly at the airport with a group of federal ministers, including Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar.
After a hurried guard of honour at the airport, Begum Bhutto’s coffin was taken by helicopter to Naudero House, where funeral prayers were scheduled to be held.
Funeral prayers and burial
Grief-stricken jiyalas and leaders of the Pakistan Peoples Party, including members of the party’s Central Executive Committee and Sindh ministers, descended upon Naudero House to pay their last respects to the woman who had kept the party together after the PPP founder was hanged by General Ziaul Haq’s regime.
Rivals and allies alike reached Naudero to attend the funeral prayers. A four-member delegation of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, comprising Ghouse Ali Shah, Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, Babu Sarfraz and Salim Zia, arrived at Naudero while a seven-member delegation of Muttahida Qaumi Movement, including Dr Farooq Sattar and Dr Sagheer Ahmed, was also present. An ambulance then took Nusrat Bhutto’s body to Garhi Khuda Bux, a 15-minute drive from Naudero, where her son-in-law Zardari and grandson Bilawal lowered it into the grave.
A number of attendees, including the prime minister, returned to Naudero House immediately after the burial while the president and his children stayed at the mausoleum, receiving mourners.
Former Sindh home minister Zulfiqar Mirza, whose recent public rift with the president and interior minister had made headlines, did not attend the funeral prayers but was present at the Garhi Khuda Bux mausoleum and later went to meet the president at Naudero House.
Funeral in absentia
But while Begum Bhutto successfully kept the party together after her husband’s death, she could not bring her family together in death.
Her older son Murtaza’s daughter Fatima Bhutto and wife Ghinwa Bhutto, who heads the PPP-Shaheed Bhutto faction, refused to attend the funeral and organised one in absentia at Al-Murtaza House, Larkana.
“No one informed us about her death,” Ghinwa told reporters. “My children even went to Dubai many times to meet their grandmother but how could PPP leaders arrange a meeting for them in Dubai since Zardari had held her hostage?”
Her son Zulfiqar Ali Junior, she said, was willing to attend the burial but couldn’t reach on time as police at Sukkur Airport created hurdles.
“She was my mother. It is extremely sad that her body will not be buried by the Bhutto family. It should first have been brought to 70 Clifton before being taken to Garhi Khuda Bux,” she said.
However, Presidential spokesperson Farhatullah Babar said that Zardari had invited Ghinwa and her children to Naudero House for the funeral. “There should be no politics over her death. Everyone regardless of political and family differences is welcome to participate,” he quoted the president as saying.
(Read more: Nusrat Bhutto – the woman, wife and mother)
(With additional reporting by Hafeez Tunio in Karachi and Sarfaraz Memon in Sukkur)
Edited by Zainab Imam
Published in The Express Tribune, October 25th, 2011.