Pakistan mourns ex-first lady Bhutto

2011-10-24 10:16

Islamabad - Pakistan shut down on Monday to mourn the death of Nusrat Bhutto, former first lady and mother of assassinated Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who died in Dubai after a long illness. She was 82.

She was the widow of Pakistan's first democratically elected leader Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the founder of the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP), and the mother-in-law of Pakistan's current president Asif Ali Zardari.

Born into a wealthy Iranian family that moved to Karachi, she married into what would become Pakistan's most famous political dynasty in 1951 and became herself a powerful spiritual force within the PPP.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has ordered a 10-day period of national mourning with Monday a public holiday, cancelling all his engagements.

"The national flag will fly at half mast during these days," his office said in a statement as government offices, shops, schools and businesses closed across the country.

Exile

Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters in Dubai that her body would be flown back to Pakistan later on Monday and be buried at Garhi Khuda Bakhsh, the ancestral graveyard of the Bhutto family in southern Sindh province.

Nusrat Bhutto was several times elected a member of the Pakistani parliament, but her life was scarred by personal tragedy and political difficulties.

Her husband Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hanged by the dictatorship of General Zia-ul-Haq in 1979. She also outlived three of her four children. Her son Murtaza was shot dead in Karachi and her son Shahnawaz died in France.

She became chair of the PPP from her husband's death in 1979 until her daughter Benazir took over in 1984 and was twice elected prime minister.

Under Zia, she was put under house arrest and thrown into jail, then spent several years in exile after being allowed to go abroad for medical treatment.

Benazir was assassinated in a gun and suicide attack at an election campaign rally in the garrison city of Rawalpindi in late 2007.

Her widower and Nusrat's son-in-law, Zardari then led the PPP to election victory in February 2008.

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