There was an air of dignified nonchalance about the way Kulsoom Nawaz performed the task assigned to her by circumstances.
She arrived on the scene after the men of her family blundered. Calmly, she went about performing the task of getting her husband and some of her in-laws out of jail. Mission accomplished, she departed quietly — appearing to have more important things to attend to rather than indulge in a fight for power.
She left in style with the freed Sharif family members in tow and an agreement about their passage for exile in Saudi Arabia in hand. There is one view which says that Ms Nawaz’s role in the release of Mian Nawaz Sharif and others following the 1999 coup is routinely overstated. According to a valid objection, she is unfairly compared with the likes of Nusrat Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto.
But, in the context of how Pakistani prime ministers have been brutally toppled and how one of them was executed in the face of impassioned appeals by influential international players who were regarded as ‘friends’ of this country, Ms Nawaz’s feat was by no means insignificant. It was a coup of sorts, aided perhaps by the fact that she had only a Gen Pervez Musharraf and not a Gen Ziaul Haq and his times to contend with.
Hers was an example of how one must stand by one’s comrades in moments of crisis. It was also an unfortunate confirmation that when it came to fighting a battle for survival, it wasn’t the party but the close relatives of the disgraced political leaders who offered any hope of escape. In any case, Kulsoom Nawaz did manage to pull it off and left an indelible mark on politics, though without making too much noise or causing inconvenience to anyone.
The thought must have crossed many a mind that she could have been given a role to play as her husband tried to fight off another challenge to his rule in the 2013-2018 period. But even if there was a will to do so, her illness proved debilitating.
Her stay at a London hospital brought out the worst in some of her compatriots. Now, previous doubts about her illness appear to have been overtaken by the heartfelt homage she is receiving from people across the board after her death. There is a lesson here for those who care to learn.
Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2018