Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had two wives (updated below)
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Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had two wives (updated below)

I’ve never heard this before, but I was going through Roedad Khan’s American Papers and in it came across a telegram sent from U.S. ambassador Farland to the U.S. Secretary of State in Washington and is copied to the Consuls in Dhaka (called “Dacca” in the telegram), Karachi, Lahore and New Delhi. The telegram is dated December 1970, just after the elections.

The subject of the telegram is “Bhutto, Zulfiqar Ali: A profile” and contains this nugget under the “personal” section:

A daughter of Bhutto was accepted as student at Radcliffe in Autumn 1969. Bhutto told former Congen Karachi in August 1969 that he had decided to educate his sons at Harvard (Karachi A – 126). He himself is a University of California graduate in Political Science. Bhutto has two wives, Begum Nusrat Butto of Iranian extraction, and a Sindhi wife who remains in the village. The latter, a “purdah” wife, owns most of Bhutto’s land holdings which, under Muslim law, he cannot take away from her. His relationship with Nusrat has been rocky at times. He has reputation for philandering as well as excessive drinking, but patently these habits have done him no public damage although opponents attacked his morals during campaign. He has at least five children.

There you go. I’d never heard this before. I must have been living under a cave because this is apparently common knowledge. And now, thanks to Shahid Saeed on twitter, I just read this Dawn report about her passing away in 2003. Her name was evidently Shirin Amir Begum.

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The other Mrs. Bhutto. Photo credit: Dawn/AFP

How did I not know this? Unbelievable.

Update: Couple of items of interest from Huma Imtiaz. First, she tweeted this picture and apparently in the background is the final resting place of aforementioned Shirin Amir Begum.

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Photo: Huma Imtiaz

And second, this blog post of hers on her travels in Sindh is well worth a read, but I’ll just excerpt the bit relevant to this post:

Then there was the tragedy that was Garhi Khuda Buksh. While one may not agree with the Bhutto family’s policies and statements, one is still saddened by their deaths – no one deserves to die in the ways that they did – one at the noose, one poisoned, one shot, one whose cause of death is still unclear (lever or gunshot, will we ever know?). But what truly was tragic was the tomb at Garhi Khuda Buksh, which stood out for miles like an eyesore. While tons of money has been spent making it look like a drag queen version of the Taj Mahal (I say, who uses white marble when you have wonderful examples of Sindhi tiles used in shrines and tombs all over the province?!), it was the interior that left a permanently bad taste in one’s mouth. An obscure member of the PPP US branch had sponsored various panaflex banners (yes, I’m not joking) with his face and message on the death of Benazir Bhutto. Billboards outside the tomb professed love for Bilawal Bhutto via their organization, the oddly titled Bilawal Bhutto Lovers Organization, while another said USA was the reason behind their death. Murtaza and Shahnawaz’s tombs were crooked. I kid you not; the boundaries raised for their grave were actually askew and made out of bricks. One understands and agrees that graves are just a marker and its dust to dust, etc, etc, but if you’re going to have them buried in a tomb, at least give them a fitting grave. And then there was the morbid caretaker, who probably sees dead PPP politicians everywhere.

Me: “Whose grave is that?”

Caretaker: “Sherry Rehman.”

Me: “WHAT?”

Caretaker: “Oh, I mean Shireen Bhutto, Zulfiqar’s first wife.”