Pakistan’s highest civilian award, the Nishan-e-Imtiaz, was posthumously conferred upon Begum Nusrat Bhutto on Monday.
While President Asif Ali Zardari organised Begum Bhutto’s funeral prayers in Naudero House, Acting President Farooq H Naek approved the award in his absence.
“Begum Nusrat Bhutto has been conferred with the highest civilian award for her relentless fight against dictatorship that spanned over decades,” said a statement released by the Presidency to announce the award, which is usually announced on the Independence Day in August.
“In recognition of her struggle for democracy and the agonies suffered for the cause, the government has also conferred on her the special title of Madar-e-Jamhooriyat (Mother of Democracy),” the statement said.
Paying tribute to the woman who single-handedly kept the party together, Pakistan Peoples Party’s estranged members – former Sindh home minister Zulfiqar Mirza and Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik – insisted that there must be no talk of political differences on this sorrowful day.
“Today is not a day for politics. This is the house from where we learnt everything – from personal integrity to political acumen – and today, there is sorrow in that house,” Mirza told The Express Tribune outside Naudero House, where he had come to meet the president and condole with him.
Malik chose to restrict the conversation to praising the police and Rangers for foolproof security arrangements and honouring Begum Bhutto’s life. “If there were a title more honourable than that of Mother of Democracy, we would have given that to her,” he said. “Her courage in her struggle for restoration of democracy is commendable and for everyone to see.”
PPP’s fierce opponent PML-N’s Sindh head Ghouse Ali Shah said that for this day, all differences had been put aside. “We have come to condole with President Zardari and he was a gracious host. We will also go and meet Ghinwa Bhutto and her family,” he said.
Former information minister Sherry Rehman, who is known for her close association with assassinated premier Benazir Bhutto, said that Begum Bhutto’s struggle for democracy will be remembered forever as will her work for women’s rights.
“She was an Iron Lady. She established a women’s wing in the PPP and trained Benazir Bhutto to fight against army rule and restore democracy in the country,” Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan told reporters at Sukkur Airport.
(With additional reporting by Ahmed Jung in Naudero and Sarfaraz Memon in Sukkur)
Published in The Express Tribune, October 25th, 2011.