‘Iron Lady’ of Pakistan bucked dictator, hit by tragedy

Born Nusrat Ispahani in Esfahan, Iran, to a wealthy Iranian-Kurdish Shiite soap manufacturer, she joined one of Pakistan’s wealthiest and most influential Sunni families when she became the second wife of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in September 1951.

Her father had moved his business to Mumbai but fled with his family to Karachi as part of the mass migration of Hindus and Muslims at the partition of British India in August 1947.

Her husband, who was educated at the University of California, Berkeley, where he took a degree in political science, and at Christ Church Oxford University, from where he graduated with advanced degrees in law and political science before being admitted to the bar at Lincoln’s Inn, was a scion of vast land holdings in the southern Sindh province.

In the years leading to and following her husband’s hanging, Nusrat took on the military dictatorship, earning her the ”Iron Lady” title – a spinoff from Margaret Thatcher’s political sobriquet in Britain – as she became the backbone of the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy, a coalition comprising PPP and other political parties determined to restore the country to the democratic model intended by its founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah (Quaid-e-Azam).

Unlike many politicians who were intimidated by Zia’s heavy-handed rule, Nusrat never buckled. She and her daughter, Benazir, were frequently under house arrest for their opposition. On one occasion she was attacked by police wi… >>>

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