LARKANA, The death of Nusrat Bhutto marked the end of Bhuttos era in Pakistani Politics. The national flag flew at half mast as thousands gathered in Garhi Khuda Bux on Monday to bid farewell to Begum Nusrat Bhutto, regarded widely as the nation’s icon of democracy.
The widow of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and mother of another former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, was laid to rest in the family’s ancestral graveyard.
Mourners led by Sanam, the only survivor among her four children, and grandchildren Bilawal, Bakhtawar and Assefa and son-in-law, President Asif Ali Zardari, showered her with flower petals.
But her two other grandchildren, Fatima and Zulfikar Junior, and Ghinva Bhutto, the widow of her son Murtaza, did not join the funeral at Garhi Khuda Bux, but gathered at Al Murtaza House where a ghaibana namaz-i-janaza was offered.
They and Sindh National Front’s Chairman Mumtaz Bhutto received condolences from a large number of people, including supporters of PPP (SB). Fatima Bhutto told reporters that the body of her grandmother should have been brought to Al Murtaza House for the last rites, instead of the Camp Office of the President House.
Earlier, the body of Begum Bhutto was flown into Sukkur in a special plane from Dubai where she had died on Sunday after a protracted illness. The coffin was accompanied by Sanam Bhutto, Bilawal and Assefa. After a guard of honour at the airport, the coffin was taken in an army helicopter to Naudero.
The dignitaries who offered the funeral prayer included Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, federal and provincial ministers, PPP’s central and provincial leaders, PML-N’s Ghous Ali Shah and Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, and MQM’s Dr Farooq Sattar.
Nusrat Bhutto was buried next to the grave of Zulfikar Bhutto. Security measures were so tight that even party workers who came from different parts of the country were held back outside the boundary wall of the mausoleum. They were allowed to enter the mausoleum only after the dignitaries left the area. Just after the namaz-i-janaza, federal minister Khursheed Shah and Sindh minister Agha Siraj Durrani arrived at the mausoleum and after a security clearance the coffin of Begum Bhutto was brought to the place.
Bilawal and other members of the Bhutto family — MNA Shahid Bhutto, Mohammad Ali Bhutto, Saeed Bhutto and Aamir Bhutto — lowered the coffin to the grave.
At one stage Interior Minister Rehman Malik tried to help in lowering the body, but was stopped by Saeed Bhutto, a close relative of Begum Bhutto. PPP workers, supporters and Bhutto’s admirers held back outside the mausoleum raised slogans of “Jeay Bhutto sada jeay” and Zindah hai Bhutto zindah hai”.
Police and Rangers personnel were deployed on all roads leading to Garhi Khuda Bux. One road used as helipads was sealed. Special security and traffic arrangements were made and Sindh IG Syed Mushtaque Shah supervised these. Only official media was allowed to cover the event inside the camp office of the President House in Naudero.
Ghinva Bhutto said the DIG, SSP Larkana and district coordination officer had met her at Al Murtaza House and offered her to attend the final rites and catch a last glimpse of Nusrat Bhutto at the camp office. She said she had turned down the request and asked them that religious injunctions required the body to be handed over to her family and final rites should be held at Al Murtaza House which, according to her, they had refused.
Mumtaz Bhutto said: “She (Nusrat Bhutto) is our blood and her final rites should be held at Al Murtaza House.” Without mentioning names, he alleged that the hands of people who had performed her final rites using government machinery were stained with Murtaza Bhutto’s murder. He said it was a tragedy that Murtaza Bhutto’s widow and her children could not get the last glimpse of Nusrat Bhutto because of differences.
Mumtaz Bhutto, along with Ghinva Bhutto, Fatima, Zulfikar and Ameer Bakhsh Bhutto, reached the graveyard after Begum Nusrat’s burial. Amid moving scenes, they offered fateha and laid floral wreaths on her grave.
Senator Dr Safdar Abbasi and wife Naheed Khan, former political secretaries of Benazir Bhutto, also visited the mausoleum, offered fateha and laid floral wreaths on the grave.
Sindh’s former home minister Dr Zulfikar Mirza arrived at the graveyard along with a group of PPP workers and supporters after the burial.