- In Pakistan, is courage confined to women alone?
Begum Kulsoom Nawaz, who lost the battle against cancer on Wednesday, was a brave and dignified woman. At a time when few in the PML-N were willing to confront Gen Pervez Musharraf who had overthrown Nawaz Sharif in a military coup in October 1999, Kulsoom Nawaz tried to arouse the party by announcing that she was herself leading a motor procession from Lahore to Peshawar as a protest against the coup. She was forced to return home after a 10-hour standoff with police who had stopped the car after a ten mile chase and hauled it with a crane to police compound. After Nawaz Sharif’s return to Pakistan in November 2007, Kulsoom again restricted her activities to purely domestic affairs. Even after becoming the First Lady for the third time after 2013 elections, she continued to maintain a low profile. Her death has elicited messages of condolence from the president, prime minister, COAS and politicians and social figures belonging to all shades of opinion. Nawaz Sharif, Maryam and Captain (r) Safdar have been released on parole on humanitarian grounds to attend her funeral in Lahore scheduled for Friday.
Kulsoom Nawaz was diagnosed lymphoma in August last year and had been in London since, where she underwent multiple surgeries and at least five chemotherapy sessions. The cruel way some of Nawaz Sharif’s political opponents spoke about her illness was indicative of the level of degeneration of Pakistan’s political culture. Most of the comments were altogether ill-informed. Some were simply inappropriate and even callous. It was maintained for instance that her illness was no more than a drama staged to gain public sympathy. Others said Kulsoom was already dead but the Sharifs were waiting for a politically opportune time to make the announcement. Still others claimed that she was not at all ill and the hospital being mentioned was fake. Others opined that the hospital was one of Sharif family’s offshore properties and the doctors issued whatever health reports suited the PML-N. Other than Aitzaz Ahsan none had the grace to apologise over their remarks.