KULSOOM NAWAZ—née Kulsoom Butt—is a name that has resonated throughout most of Pakistan’s recent political history over a span of several decades. Her personality had overcome her family—despite being the wife of a thrice-elected prime minister or the mother of a future leader—to become a symbol of courage for women idealising a political career.
Born just three years post India’s division at the heart of Lahore, Mrs Nawaz had been destined to play a pivotal role in the Republic’s politics. Coming from a family of wrestlers and doctors, a sense of confidence and determinism had been instilled into her from a young age.
A young Kulsoom Butt married into the Sharif family in April of 1970 to an ambitious politician named Nawaz Sharif, who was on the cusp of the beginning of a longstanding political career. In her student days, she, herself, was the avid left-leaning admirer of former statesman Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Her foray into politics had not been accidental; she had made a conscious decision to support her husband’s vision for a new Pakistan.
It is no secret that Nawaz Sharif’s tenures as premier have been of a turbulent nature. However, throughout the former prime minister’s oustings, she remained a resilient familial support pillar. In spite of a concerning amount of upheaval, imprisonment, and exile, she never wavered.
Kulsoom’s political journey reached its zenith when she stepped into the political arena herself. In 1997, during Nawaz Sharif’s second term as prime minister, she contested and won the by-election for the Lahore seat left vacant by her husband. Her enduring popularity had been put to the test.
However, Kulsoom’s political career was not without its share of challenges. Her tenure as a Member of Parliament was interrupted by Nawaz Sharif’s ouster in a military coup led by the late dictator Pervez Musharraf in 1999. The Sharif family had years of exile to face ahead of them.
The most challenging chapter of her life had come during Nawaz Sharif’s third term as prime minister when he had been ousted from office in 2017. Kulsoom Nawaz was diagnosed with lymphoma—a type of cancer. Despite undergoing treatment in London, she was remarkably elected to the National Assembly from her Lahore constituency in absentia.
On September 11, 2018, Pakistan lost a true political icon. Kulsoom Nawaz passed away in London, leaving behind a legacy of resilience and devotion to her family and country. Her funeral in Lahore drew thousands of mourners, a testament to the profound impact she had on the nation.
In a world where politics often obscures the human stories behind the headlines, Kulsoom Nawaz’s legacy endures not only in the memory of her family but also in the hearts of countless Pakistanis who had admired her unwavering commitment to democracy and her unyielding spirit to this very day. She had been more than just a political figure—with such aforementioned feats under her belt, she had proved herself to be Pakistan’s last tried and true iron lady.