Begum Kulsoom Nawaz, the woman behind a three-time premier

September 11, 2018

When military dictator Pervez Musharraf staged a coup in 1999 and put Nawaz Sharif in jail, it was his wife, Begum Kulsoom Nawaz, who hit the streets with the protest of her life.

She vowed to lead a motor procession from Lahore to Peshawar but the military regime had banned all political rallies. Around 50 people were detained as the police surrounded the Sharif family’s Lahore home ahead of the planned rally. Law enforcers stopped people from entering and leaving the area.

Kulsoom Nawaz (R), wife of former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif, sits along with Raja Zafarul Haq (C), convener of Sharif’s former party, the Pakistan Muslim League party (PML), and party secretary-general, Sir Injam Khan, during its first meeting in Islamabad, 09 April 2000. Photo: AFP

Somehow, Begum Kulsoom managed to elude the police barricades. The police stopped her car 10 miles away. A huge overhead crane was brought to lift the front wheels of her car. As the car was dragged to the police compound, Begum Kulsoom refused to leave the vehicle or open the doors. She stayed inside the car for 10 hours. This act of defiance sets her apart in a country where challenging military might is no small feat.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (R) and his wife, Kulsoom Nawaz Sharif, are led to Dhaka’s airport gangway 17 January by host Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed (M) as they left for Islamabad ending a three-day visit to Bangladesh. Photo: AFP

Begum Kulsoom passed away at the Harley Street Clinic on September 11 after doctors put her on life support earlier in the day.

Kulsoom Nawaz (C), wife of ousted Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif, poses with her daugther Maryam Safdar (L), son-in-law Mohammad safdar (R), grandson Junaid and granddaughter Mehrun Nisa, before leaving Pakistan for Saudi Arabia, 10 December 2000. Photo: AFP

Kulsoom sahiba was born on March 29, 1950. She was the granddaughter of Rustam Zaman, famously known as Gama Pehalwan. The family had migrated from Amritsar when India was partitioned.

Kulsoom graduated from Islamia College in 1970. A year later on April 4, she was married to Nawaz Sharif. Mr Sharif became a politician in the 1980s and since then, Begum Kulsoom has been an important voice in the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.

Maryam Nawaz (R), daughter and Kulsoom Nawaz (L) wife of former Pakistan’s premier Nawaz Sharif wave to supporters as they take part of election campaign in Lahore on May 4, 2013. Photo: AFP

She became first lady three times, in 1990, 1997 and 2013. She was a supportive partner through thick and thin. Be it election campaigns or the trying times of exile, she was always on her husband’s side.

Together they had four children: Maryam Nawaz, Asma Nawaz, Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz.

Kulsoom Nawaz, Wife of Pakistani deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif, speaks to newsmen outside the court in Attock, some 80 kilometers west of Islamabad, 22 July 2000. Photo: AFP

Begum Kulsoom did her Bachelor’s in Urdu Literature from Forman Christian College after her marriage in 1972. She then went on to complete her Master’s and PhD in Philosophy from Punjab University. She took a keen interest in literature and often penned speeches for her husband.

On July 28 last year, the Supreme Court disqualified then PM Nawaz Sharif from holding public office. Mrs Sharif won the by-election on NA-120, the seat that her husband held. Unfortunately, she could never take oath as she was being treated in London for throat cancer.

Kulsoom Nawaz (R), wife of deposed Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif, waves to party supporters as she leaves court with Nusrat Shahbaz, the wife of Sharif’s younger brother Shahbaz Sharif, in Karachi on February 23 2000. Photo: AFP

Days before her death, members of her family were given a delayed permission to visit her. She was unconscious by the time her husband and daughter arrived in London.