ISLAMABAD - It was the bright sunny day of December 1999 when I first met a defiant but resolute Begum Kulsoom Nawaz Sharif waiting outside the Civil Lines Police Station Rawalpindi along with a few party activists waiting to meet her son Hussain Nawaz detained there.
The lady was determined to take on the military dictator head on when majority of the party stalwarts were either behind the bars or were mum due to the unbearable dictatorial coercion.
Encouraged by the bold position, she had taken against the then dictator General Pervez Musharraf the diehard party activists had started rallying round Begum Kulsoom Nawaz and gradually built it into a movement which ultimately led to packing them in exile.
Those were the days when Ch Tanvir Khan’s residence in Chaklala III had become the hub of PML-N political activities and party conventions and meetings became a regular feature. Begum Kulsoom Nawaz used to address these meetings and conventions at Ch Tanvir’s residence twice or thrice in a month.
Ch Tanvir had to land in jail and a fake corruption reference was framed against him when he refused to stop these political activities and facilitation of Begum Kulsoom Nawaz’s activities in Rawalpindi.
It was Begum Kulsoom Nawaz’s first exposure as political leader, and that came in extremely difficult time, when even the veteran and firebrand politicians of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz had avoided confronting the military dictator. But the lady had not only confronted military regime but unnerved it and finally carved out a way out for her husband and siblings.
Begum Kulsoom Nawaz used to come in Rawalpindi and later at Attock Fort to meet her husband Nawaz Sharif and brother-in-law Shehbaz Sharif facing National Accountability Bureau corruption references against them.
She was usually accompanied by her mother-in-law and daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif during those visits. In those days Maryam Nawaz Sharif was shy and Begum Kulsoom Nawaz used to be in the lead role addressing party conventions, responding to media and giving statements against the military regime.
In those days when the main party leaders including former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his brother Shehbaz Sharif were behind the bars it was Begum Kulsoom Nawaz who had spearheaded the movement against the military dictator and had saved the party from disintegration, PML-N central leader said adding that she had virtually played the role of sheet anchor for the party.
In those days Begum Kulsoom Nawaz had made a team of party activists and second tier leaders who stood by her against the tyranny of dictatorial regime and braved the threats, politically motivated cases and even jail but had never backed out from the cause.
The lady ostensibly went back in her family role even after the return of Sharif brothers back in the country from exile but from behind the scene Begum Kulsoom Nawaz had played a vibrant and active role in the party politics and all those who stood by her in the time of trial were rewarded with party positions.
She had never forgotten the warmth and respect shown by the party leaders and activists to her in difficult times and managed them duly rewarded by the party.
Begum Najma Hameed, Begum Tahira Aourengzeb, her daughter Marriyum Aourengzeb, Ch Tanvir Khan and her family, Seema Jillani, Zaibun Nisa alias Zabun are few to name who stood with her against the tyranny of dictator.
Later, a strong but invisible group of political leaders and activists rose to prominence with her backing in the party and even some insiders in the party were of the view that she was the political mentor of Maryam Nawaz Sharif who used to idealise her mother.
She was the ideal of so many young party leaders who got inspiration from her undaunted struggle for democracy and civil liberties, and against the dictatorial regime of Musharraf.
Her political career of the former first lady remains far from any controversy, unlike embroilment of her family members in different cases.
Kulsoom became First Lady of Pakistan for the first time after her husband, Nawaz Sharif, became Prime Minister on 1 November 1990 when his political alliance, Islami Jamhoori Ittehad, won 104 of 207 seats contested in the general election of 1990.
She became First Lady of Pakistan for the second time after Nawaz Sharif became Prime Minister of Pakistan when his party, Pakistan Muslim League (N), won the Pakistani general election in 1997. His second term as Prime Minister was ended when then Chief of Army Staff General Pervez Musharraf led a military coup d’état against him on 12 October 1999.
Nawaz Sharif named his wife as the President of Pakistan Muslim League in 1999 and she remained on post till 2002.
She became First Lady of Pakistan for the third time after Nawaz Sharif became Prime Minister of Pakistan when his party, Pakistan Muslim League (N), won the Pakistani general election, 2013.
When Nawaz Sharif was deposed after his disqualification as a result of a Supreme Court verdict in July 2017, Kulsoom Nawaz contested by-election from her husband’s vacated constituency NA-120 and won the election.
Begum Kulsoom was diagnosed with lymphoma (throat) cancer in August 2017. She had undergone several sessions of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Initially, she showed signs of improvement but as of late her condition deteriorated. She passed away on September 11, 2018.
The iron lady