Wife of jailed ex-PM Nawaz Sharif dies in London

Begum Kulsoom Nawaz, the wife of the ex-Premier of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif, has died in London after losing her battle with cancer. (Reuters)
Updated 11 September 2018
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Wife of jailed ex-PM Nawaz Sharif dies in London

  • Sharif family has decided to bury Kulsoom Nawaz in Pakistan
  • She will be remembered for her struggle for democracy, says close aide

ISLAMABAD: Begum Kulsoom Nawaz, wife of ex-Premier Nawaz Sharif, died in London on Tuesday after losing her battle with cancer. Her body will be brought back to Pakistan on the first available flight for burial.

“My sister-in-law and wife of Mian Nawaz Sharif, Begum Kulsoom Nawaz, has passed away. May the departed soul rest in peace,” Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president and the deceased’s brother-in-law, Shehbaz Sharif, confirmed in a tweet.

The former first lady had been undergoing cancer treatment at a Harley Street clinic in London since August last year after she was diagnosed with early-stage lymphoma.

She underwent multiple surgeries and at least five chemotherapy sessions, but did not recover. She has been on life-support in the hospital since July this year.


“Shehbaz Sharif is leaving for London on the first available flight to bring back the body,” Sen. Mushahidullah Khan, secretary information PML-N, told Arab News. “The family has decided to bury Kulsoom Nawaz in Pakistan.”

Jailed ex-premier Nawaz Sharif and daughter Maryam Nawaz are currently in Adiala Jail, Rawalpindi, serving their sentences in the Avenfield corruption case; and were handed jail sentences of 10 years and seven years respectively.

Mushahidullah Khan said that they would apply for the release of Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz from jail to attend the last rites of the deceased. “Our legal team will handle the matter,” he said.

Prime Minister Imran Khan sent his condolences on the death of Kulsoom Nawaz and assured the bereaved family of full legal support within the ambit of the law and constitution.

“We have conveyed to the Pakistan High Commission in London to fully cooperate with the (Sharif) family to bring back the body,” Iftikhar Durrani, media adviser to the prime minister, told Arab News.

“The (Sharif) family is in jail and if they apply to participate in the rituals as per law, we have no objection. Whatever the legal facilitation is available (for Nawaz Sharif and Maryam), we have conveyed to them (the family),” he said.

“We are sorry and express our condolences to the family. The government is ready to extend all our support within the legal boundaries,” he said.

Advocate Sharafat Ali, an assistant to the legal team of the Sharif family, said that it was the prerogative of the jail authorities to release Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz on parole and “we will apply soon for their release.”

“An application will be submitted to the jail authorities seeking the release of Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and Capt. (Retd.) Mohammed Safdar, and we are sure that they will attend the funeral of Kulsoom Nawaz,” he told Arab News.

Shortly after the news broke on media, condolence messages began pouring in.

Leaders of political parties and Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, the chief of army staff, extended their condolences to the bereaved family.

“COAS expresses his grief and heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family on the sad demise of Begum Kulsoom Nawaz. May Allah bless the departed soul eternal peace at Heaven-Amen,” the director general of Inter-Services Public Relations said in a message.

Begum Kulsoom served as first lady of Pakistan for three non-consecutive terms from 1990-1993, 1997-1999 and 2013-2017. Born in 1950 in Lahore to a Kashmiri family, Begum Kulsoom married Nawaz Sharif in 1971 after completing her master’s degree in Urdu from Punjab University, Lahore.

She also served as the president of the PML-N from 1999 to 2002 after her husband’s government was dismissed by former President Pervez Musharraf in a bloodless coup in October 1999, and nearly all the Sharif men were jailed.

“She was a courageous lady, and will be remembered for her struggle for democracy and for her love for the people of Pakistan,” Mushahidullah Khan told Arab News.


Three UK Conservatives quit party in protest at “disastrous Brexit“

Updated 23 min 36 sec ago
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Three UK Conservatives quit party in protest at “disastrous Brexit“

  • Three resign to join independent group in parliament
  • Blow to PM May in efforts to clinch deal on exit from EU

LONDON: Three lawmakers from Britain’s governing Conservatives quit over the government’s “disastrous handling of Brexit” on Wednesday, in a blow to Prime Minister Theresa May’s attempts to unite her party around plans to leave the European Union.
The lawmakers, who support a second EU referendum and have long said May’s Brexit strategy is being led by Conservative euroskeptics, said they would join a new independent group in parliament set up by seven former opposition Labour politicians.
The resignations put May in an even weaker position in parliament, where her Brexit deal was crushed by lawmakers last month when both euroskeptics and EU supporters voted against an agreement they say offers the worst of all worlds.
While the three were almost certain to vote against any deal, the hardening of their positions undermines May’s negotiating position in Brussels, where she heads later to try to secure an opening for further work on revising the agreement.
With only 37 days until Britain leaves the EU, its biggest foreign and trade policy shift in more than 40 years, divisions over Brexit are redrawing the political landscape. The resignations threaten a decades-old two-party system.
“The final straw for us has been this government’s disastrous handling of Brexit,” the three lawmakers, Heidi Allen, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston, said in a letter to May.
Soubry later told a news conference that the Conservative Party had been taken over by right-wing, pro-Brexit lawmakers.
“The truth is, the battle is over and the other side has won. The right-wing, the hard-line anti-EU awkward squad that have destroyed every (Conservative) leader for the last 40 years are now running the ... party from top to toe,” she said.
May said she was saddened by the decision and that Britain’s membership of the EU “has been a source of disagreement both in our party and in our country for a long time.”
“But by ... implementing the decision of the British people we are doing the right thing for our country,” she said, referring to the 2016 referendum in which Britons voted by a margin of 52-48 percent in favor of leaving the EU.
Asked what May would say to others considering resigning, her spokesman said: “She would, as she always has, ask for the support of her colleagues in delivering (Brexit).”

INDEPENDENT GROUP
The three sat in parliament on Wednesday with a new grouping which broke away from the Labour Party earlier this week over increasing frustration with their leader Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexit strategy and a row over anti-Semitism.
Another former Labour lawmaker joined their ranks late on Tuesday, and several politicians from both the main opposition party and Conservatives said they expected more to follow from both sides of parliament.
What unites most of the group of 11 is a desire to see a second referendum on any deal May comes back with, now that the terms of Brexit are known in detail — something the prime minister has ruled out.
For May’s Brexit plan, the resignations are yet another knock to more than two years of talks to leave the EU, which have been punctuated by defeats in parliament, rows over policy and a confidence vote, which she ultimately won.
Britain’s 2016 EU referendum has split not only British towns and villages but also parliament, with both Conservative and Labour leaders struggling to keep their parties united.
May has faced a difficult balancing act. Euroskeptic members of her party want a clean break with the bloc, pro-EU lawmakers argue for the closest possible ties, while many in the middle are increasing frustrated over the lack of movement.
Those who have resigned have long accused May of leaning too far toward Brexit supporters, sticking to red lines which they, and many in Labour, say have made a comprehensive deal all but impossible to negotiate.
But May will head to Brussels hoping that her team will get the green light to start more technical negotiations on how to satisfy the concerns of mostly Brexit supporters over the so-called Northern Irish backstop arrangement.
The “backstop,” an insurance policy to avoid a hard border between the British province of Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland if London and Brussels fail to agree a deal on future ties, is the main point of contention in talks with Brussels.
British officials are hoping they can secure the kind of legal assurances that the backstop cannot trap Britain in the EU’s sphere to persuade lawmakers to back a revised deal.
But May’s argument she can command a majority in parliament if the EU hands her such assurances is getting weaker. A government defeat last week showed the euroskeptics’ muscle.
One pro-Brexit Conservative lawmaker, Andrew Bridgen, said: “I would find it very difficult to accept a legal document from the same (party) lawyer whose definitive advice four weeks ago was that we could be trapped in the backstop in perpetuity.”