Pakistan’s jailed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam and son-in-law Captain Muhammad Safdar (retired) reached Lahore early Wednesday from Rawalpindi after they were released from Adiala Jail on a 12-hour parole to attend the funeral of Begum Kulsoom Nawaz.
Kulsoom, the wife of Sharif, died on Tuesday in London after a long battle with cancer. She was 68. Her body will be brought back and buried in the Jati Umra Lahore residence of the Sharif family.
Sharif and two others were transported to Jati Umra in a special plane from Nur Khan Airbase Rawalpindi in the early hours of Wednesday after the Punjab government’s home department issued their release order for a 12-hour parole. The trio arrived in Lahore at 3.15 am on Wednesday.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz spokesperson Maryam Aurangzeb said that Shahbaz Sharif, had filed an application with the Punjab government requesting the release of his elder brother Nawaz, niece Maryam and Safdar for five days on parole so that they could attend the last rituals of Kulsoom who died of cancer in London.
The Punjab government did not entertain Shahbaz’s request for five days and only granted their release for 12 hours, she said.
“We are hopeful that the government will extend the parole till the funeral of Begum Kulsoom to be held on Friday in Lahore,” Aurangzeb said, adding Shahbaz will leave for London on Wednesday to bring Kulsoom’s body back.
A senior official of the Punjab government also confirmed that the parole period would be extended till the last rituals of Kulsoom are performed in Lahore.
“Since Kulsoom’ body is scheduled to arrive here on Friday there is no point of not extending the parole period. The government has allowed Mr Sharif to attend the funeral prayer of his wife purely on humanitarian grounds,” the official said.
According to a notification of the home department, “In pursuance of rule 545-B of Pakistan Prison Rules 1978, permission granted to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz, Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar, confined at central prison Rawalpindi, to attend the funeral prayer of Kulsoom Nawaz. The duration of permission granted shall not exceed 12 hours. Police will be responsible for their security and safety. They will not leave the place (Jati Umra) specified in the permission order”.
Earlier, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan had ordered to facilitate the Sharif family regarding the bringing back of body of Kulsoom and matters related to their parole.
Heavy contingent of police has been deployed at the Jati Umra to provide security to the Sharif family.
Kulsoom, who had been battling with lymphoma (throat cancer) for over a year, breathed her last at the London’s Harley Street Clinic.
“Begum Kulsoom’s condition deteriorated early in the morning on Tuesday. Doctors tried their best but couldn’t save her life,” Aurangzeb said.
To a question whether her sons -- Hasan and Hussain -- would return to Lahore to attend her funeral prayer, she said, “No decision has been taken as yet”.
It is likely that both sons may not return to Pakistan as they have been declared absconders by an accountability court in the off-shore properties case.
The former first lady was diagnosed with lymphoma (throat) cancer in August last and had been in London since, where she underwent multiple surgeries and at least five chemotherapy sessions.
She was placed on a ventilator in June following a cardiac arrest. Her family reported a slight improvement in her condition on July 12, a day before her husband Sharif and Maryam were set to return to Pakistan after the accountability court sentenced them to jail.
She served as the first lady of Pakistan for three non-consecutive terms from 1990-1993, 1997-1999 and 2013-2017.
She also served as the president of the PML-N from 1999 to 2002, after her husband’s government was toppled by former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf in a bloodless coup. She was also placed under house arrest following Sharif’s ouster by Musharraf in 1999.
She led defiant, lonely protests against the Musharraf regime to get her husband freed from prison.
Kulsoom was elected to Lahore’s NA-120 constituency in a by-poll after her husband was disqualified from the seat by the Supreme Court last year. Due to her illness, she was unable to return and formally take oath for the seat.
She was born in 1950 in Lahore to a Kashmiri family. She graduated from the Forman Christian College in Lahore and received a Master’s degree in Urdu from Punjab University in 1970.
From her maternal side, she was granddaughter of famous wrestler of the sub-continent Gama Pehlwan.
Kulsoom married Sharif in April 1971 and they have four children - Hassan, Hussain, Maryam and Asma.