Losing a parent is tragic, if the parent loses life while battling a horrific disease like cancer, it adds to the tragedy and if this news is broken to you by a jail warden in the confines of a solitary confinement cell, the tragedy becomes that of Maryam Nawaz’s. There have been many critics of Maryam Nawaz on her politics including myself but no one can miss the tenacity of this woman to stand firm when things went murky and dark. The death of Mrs Kulsoom Nawaz was a moment marked and marred by despondency.
Those of us who have lost a parent or both know nothing prepares you for the final knell. Sitting in jail, Maryam Nawaz must have feared the worst perhaps a hundred thousand times but nothing would have prepared her for what was to follow. Once your beloved one actually leaves you forever, the finality of life seals its reality and that’s a journey everyone takes individually and in their own time. When personal tragedy of this magnitude hits, then everyone carries his own cross, be one a former three time prime minister or an aspirant of future premiership. Death remains the most final event of all and there is nothing political about it.
It’s not that she was just a mother to Maryam, Hassan, Hussain and Asma Nawaz. Mrs Kulsoom Nawaz has been the kind of figure that shines in the shadows and towers without much effort.
She remains as one of the most influential people in the politics of Pakistan post nineties without ever aspiring for the limelight. And that’s what perhaps sets her apart from the rest.
Mrs Kulsoom Nawaz will always be known as a humble and brave lady by all. She remained Pakistan’s First Lady three times and kept her simplicity throughout. But few know that she was just not a supportive mother and wife, she was also a doting daughter.
I met her quite a few times in my lifetime, the first interesting meeting I had with her has already been narrated in one of my earlier write ups when in 2007, Nawaz Shareef was returning to Pakistan and a worried Kulsoom Nawaz offered me to sit in her drawing room as I reported on the event from London.
But it’s the long and last meeting I had with her while travelling to Bosnia in 2017, exactly ten years after my first meeting with her that I will be narrating today. My father had passed away only a few weeks ago when I was told by my office to travel to Bosnia with the then prime minister. As the then Prime minister stopped to offer his condolences at my seat, I saw Mrs Kulsoom Nawaz peeking from behind. As she passed by me, she took my hand and squeezed it and gave me a nod which was assuring in a very strange soothing manner. Later I had a chance to sit down with her and I started talking about politics. “You want to talk about your father’,” she asked me suddenly and straight forwardly. I was taken aback. I did want to talk about him all the time in those days but could not understand how she could guess that. She moved her chair slightly back and started telling me how she had lost her father and how close she was to both her parents.
“My parents loved me and adored me and losing a parent is a pain one can never quite forget”, as she started talking tears started welling up in her eyes.
“I once went to Swat with my father when I was little, there is a rock there, where he stopped and took me in his arms and made me sit on the rock”, she told me. “He made me sit on that rock and put shoes in my feet, you know that memory never leaves me, whenever I go to Swat, I keep on looking for that rock involuntarily.” As she said that tears were rolling down her cheeks. I gave her a tissue. She suddenly jerked, “I am sorry I should be offering you condolences but I am crying myself”, it was an emotional moment for me too so I broke down too and we both spent some time talking about our respective father. “How many years it has been?” I asked. “It has been centuries, twenty five years. Shall I tell you something dear, one never forgets their parents. These years mean nothing. I want to give you assurance but even twenty years down the line, you will still be missing and crying for them like you do the first year. This is a scar that never heals.” She then mentioned a few things about her father in law’s death but found it too painful to continue. I was extremely touched by the tears and emotion of the First Lady. Initially what I had thought to be a political condolence was proving to be a heartfelt catharsis session for me.
“When I was little,” she stared reminiscing again looking into thin air, “I used to be really pampered and doted by everyone, sometimes I used to refuse to eat what was made for lunch after coming back from school, my dear mother would then make my favorite bread with her own hand and will place it quietly in my room. “Fe’reeha, today I live in Prime Minister House where there is lavish and dishes of every type, I travel around the world but never again, could I ever find the taste of the bread which was made by my mother.” Her beautiful face went all red with emotion. It may sound like narration of emotions but it’s a fact that I was mesmerized to see her sharing these memories with me which I am sure were one of the most private for her. I could feel she was genuinely trying to make an effort to put me at ease. The words finished the journey to Bosnia ended but the emotion and feeling stayed with me for days to come.
Today, as I am jotting down these lines, I can feel what will be the feelings of Maryam Nawaz. It’s not the discomfort of the jail, today the mind will be burning with unbelievable agony. Because in the words of her own mother...”nothing matches the pain of losing a parent.”
The writer is a journalist and and TV anchor, currently at Abb Takk News.