A picture of the Bhuttos taken during a family excursion shows (from right to left) former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, his wife Nusrat, daughter Sanam, son Mir Murtaza, daughter Benazir and son Shahnawaz.

The  death of Begum Nusrat Bhutto brings to an end an extremely turbulent chapter in Pakistan’s history. She was the country’s first lady from 1973 to 1977.

In 1989, when she was a senior minister without portfolio and acted as the prime minister when Benazir Bhutto gave birth to her second child.

In the roller-coaster world of Pakistani politics, Begum Bhutto saw many ups and downs.

Belonging to a well-to-do Iranian business family she had the good fortune of becoming the country’s first lady when Z.A. Bhutto assumed power soon after the dismemberment of the country. She also enjoyed pomp and power when Benazir became the prime minister.

But in the intervening period and even afterwards, she faced several tragedies with exemplary courage and fortitude.

Her husband was hanged after a controversial judgment, one son was gunned down in Karachi and the other died in Paris in mysterious circumstances.

But she continued to fight against all odds, leading her husband’s party, the People’s Party, from the front.

Nusrat Bhutto did not come from a political dynasty. She belonged to an Iranian business family which had trading houses in Iran, Iraq and undivided India.

Settled in Ispahan (Iran), her great grandfather had studied at Najaf Ashraf in Iraq and set up his business there. Once back in Iran, he rose to the position of Ayatollah.

One of his children, Mirza Mohammad, was born in Najaf but finally settled in Iran. He was a liberal man and wanted to change with the changing times.

In his youth, Mohammad visited Bombay and decided to start a business there under the name of the Baghdad Soap Factory.

It was in Bombay that Nusrat Ispahani, as Begum Bhutto was known before marriage, was born on March 23, 1929. She was the third child of her father.

Education in Bombay imbued Nusrat with a liberal outlook, although her mother was a conservative woman who wanted her to wear a veil after she passed her Cambridge examinations and began going to college. It was the veil which prevented Nusrat from pursuing higher studies.

During one of her family’s several visits to the scenic Khandala town Nusrat met Sir Shahnawaz Bhutto’s family. When Nusrat’s family shifted to Karachi, the friendship between the two families deepened.

At that time Z.A. Bhutto had returned from the United States after completing his studies. By then Nusrat had joined Pakistan National Guards. She married ZAB in 1951 in Karachi.

It was after her marriage that Mr Bhutto went to England for law studies and Nusrat accompanied him. Mr Bhutto was already married to Amir Begum and Nusrat was his second wife.

Sir Shahnawaz Bhutto had close ties with the family of former president Iskandar Mirza who brought Zulfikar Ali Bhutto into politics a little before Gen Ayub Khan overthrew Mirza on Oct 7, 1958.

Zulfikar and Nusrat were in Larkana when they got the message that Ayub Khan wanted to retain Bhutto as a minister. It was on Nusrat’s advice that Bhutto accepted the offer.

Mr Bhutto was sworn in as minister for natural resources, later as foreign minister. When Mr Bhutto developed differences with Ayub Khan after the Tashkent Declaration, Nusrat became closely involved in politics. She was active in organising the women’s wing of the Pakistan People’s Party.

After the overthrow of the Bhutto government by Gen Ziaul Haq on July 5, 1977, many difficulties awaited her. She had to lead the party and fight for her husband’s life. It cost her dearly.

As the only living head of the family, she took up the leadership of the party and also dealt with the cases in courts. However, she had to endure the shock of Bhutto’s execution on April 4, 1979.

At that juncture, her only consolation was her children. She left the country along with Shahnawaz, Murtaza, Benazir and Sanam, and remained in exile for many years. During the exile she got another shock, in the shape of Shahnawaz’s mysterious and untimely death.

Things began to look up for her when Benazir returned to Pakistan in 1986 after Gen Zia’s death. Nusrat always remained beside her daughter and helped her during her election campaign. In a way she was the main source of strength for Benazir who finally came to power in 1988.

Nusrat herself was elected from Larkana and her prime minister-daughter appointed her a minister.

Things went well for some time but then tragedy struck once again. During the second tenure of Benazir’s prime ministership, her son Murtaza was killed near the Bhutto’s 70 Clifton residence.

This shock began showing its effects and Nusrat’s health started declining. She was eventually attacked by Alzheimer’s, from which she never recovered.

Since 1996 she had been suffering from various ailments and was living in Dubai.


Do you have information you wish to share with Dawn.com? You can email our News Desk to share news tips, reports and general feedback. You can also email the Blog Desk if you have an opinion or narrative to share, or reach out to the Special Projects Desk to send us your Photos, or Videos.

More From This Section

Most Popular

Comments (13) (Closed)


Shakeel GHOURI
Oct 24, 2011 10:39am
sacrifices which were given by Bhutto family for the establishment of democratic regime in country are really commendable. But as it is the matter of fact that in our country, since its creation till now, no such person has been able to prosper who strives for the well-being of nation. She really suffered many troubles in the course of her life. I pray for madam Nusrat Bhutto that may she receive the favors and blessings of Allah
Mian Feroze Salahudd
Oct 24, 2011 04:16pm
We have lost not only a brave lady but also a remarkable mother who produced leaders like Benazir Bhutto. Her fight against Zia was an example nowhere to be find. I salute the lady.
Mayalu B. Khan
Oct 24, 2011 06:48pm
Great, great lady. She's was and stays an example for everybody. Her loss is a tragedy. I'm speechless. May Allah bless her soul. Rest in peace. Pakistan Zindabad, and jeay Bhutto.
SAhil Azher
Oct 24, 2011 08:06pm
It is very sad that just one member of the family now survives. A family which was so dominant in Pakistani politics. Its even more sad that 4 of them were killed. The whole family has been erased :(. May all of them rest in peace!
Atta ul Haq Kahderza
Oct 24, 2011 08:15pm
Indeed Nusrat Bhutto fight for restoration of democracy & her family sacrificed for the sack of democracy in Pakistan, in sub content only her family four persons martyred for our country like ZA Bhutto, BB Bhutto, Murtaza Bhutto & Shah Nawas Bhutto. i, we & Pakistani nation never forget the sacrifices of Bhuttos
PROF. DR. KHALID MAH
Oct 24, 2011 09:37pm
May Allah bless you with eternal peace. Ameen. I salute you great leader Nusrat Bhutto.
ZULFIQAR KHAKI OF DA
Oct 24, 2011 09:47pm
Aziz Shaikh sahib and Habib Ghori sahib both are our parents in the world of journalism, they always mirrors best, in this article, they did great job.we have great respect for their write ups, I Promise with these Sir's that we will continue our struggle against injustice which always put our country on the path of grief.
Ann Luppi von Mehren
Oct 25, 2011 09:10am
I had the privilege of meeting Begum Bhutto. She was full of warmth, kind and gracious. I am very saddened to learn of her death. Prayers and sympathy to her family.
romil
Oct 25, 2011 11:35am
She’s was a great lady and stays an example for everybody. Her loss is a tragedy.May Allah bless her soul,and my personal thinking that her life is a moral to every body, Pakistan Zindabad,
Muhammad Imran Chaud
Oct 25, 2011 12:15pm
With this sad news,a quick thought that comes to my mind was that no matter how much successful you be in your prime time, what is at the end, you never knows. Picture's at Dawn, shows that Ms. Bhutto was a graceful lady and a great family. Wife of a PM, Mother of a PM and Mother in law of serving Pakistan's President. Excellent trainer of her childerns like BB. Unfortunately, Ms. Nusrat Bhutto had to see unforgettable griefs in her life - Her husband, her both sons, her daughter and many other incidences. Unbelievable. However, people of Pakistan will remain thankful to Bhutto family for such sacrifices and a day will come when Bhutto's labourer people will get power and prosperity.
Zaib Ali
Oct 25, 2011 01:03pm
I am sad that there was nobody in the family near her death bed while the whole nation is mourning now.I wish she was here in Pakistan with the people she loved and cared.May Allah give her highest place in Jannah for the torture she suffered.
WAZEER ALI GHUMRO
Oct 25, 2011 04:02pm
God bless her soul,her husband Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, daughter Mohtarama Shaheed Benazeer Bhuttio, two Sons Shahnawaz Bhuttio, Mir Murtaza Bhuttio all died before her. Nation cannot forget your heroic struggle against dictatorship. So sad.
kalssom
Oct 25, 2011 04:14pm
great women may her soul rest in peace