Begum Nusrat Bhutto, who has died aged 82, was the matriarch of a notable political dynasty in Pakistan.
Her husband, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was the founder of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and served as prime minister and president in the 1970s before being hanged in 1979, following what many regard as a political trial for conspiracy and murder.
Begum Nusrat Bhutto took over as head of the party for several years and served in Pakistan’s parliament, becoming a symbol of resistance to the military dictatorship of General Zia-ul-Haq. She and her daughter Benazir were frequently put under house arrest.
In 1985 Nusrat Bhutto’s second son, Shahnawaz, died aged 27 in France in unexplained circumstances (poison was suspected). Then, in 1993, after her eldest child Benazir’s first term as prime minister, the two women fell out over the Begum’s decision to throw her weight behind the claims of her elder son Murtaza. The Begum was said to have conceived an intense dislike for Benazir’s husband, Pakistan’s current President Asif Ali Zardari, whom she regarded as a corrupt opportunist and blamed for the dismissal of the PPP government in 1990.
There were said to have been tempestuous scenes between mother and daughter, and eventually Benazir removed her mother as co-chairman of the PPP.
Benazir went on to serve a second term as prime minister, from 1993 to 1996, but shortly before her term ended, Murtaza was shot dead by Pakistani police outside his home in Karachi. Immediately after the shooting Nusrat was said to have been whisked away by Benazir from the house she shared with Murtaza’s family, and neither Murtaza’s children nor his widow ever saw her again.
His daughter Fatima later published a memoir in which she claimed that Benazir and her husband had been involved in her father’s death.
Subsequently, however, Nusrat Bhutto was reconciled with her daughter; in 1998 she went to live in Dubai with Benazir, who had retreated there after her defeat in the 1997 parliamentary elections .
Nusrat Bhutto remained in Dubai when Benazir returned to Pakistan in 2007, only to meet her end at the hands of a suicide bomber during a campaign rally.
She was born Nusrat Ispahnie on March 23 1929 in Isfahan, Iran, into a wealthy family of Kurdish descent. The family moved to Bombay but, during the Partition of India in 1947, her father, a soap merchant, took his family to Karachi. In 1951 Nusrat became the second wife of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and a member of one of Pakistan’s wealthiest and most influential families.
Benazir Bhutto recalled that her mother had groomed her children for success: “She was very strict about exercising and her weight, and was always telling us that we had to groom ourselves properly and be neat, tidy and smart,” she recalled. Until her husband’s execution, however, Begum Nusrat Bhutto was mainly known for her beauty and fashion sense.
Begum Nusrat Bhutto is survived by her younger daughter, Sanam, who lives in London.
Begum Nusrat Bhutto, born March 23 1929, died October 23 2011