Tanveer Mughal / AFP - Getty Images
In this photograph taken on February 4, 1997, former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, left, walks with her mother Begum Nusrat Bhutto as she arrives at the Islamabad airport.
By Amna Nawaz, NBC News Correspondent
ISLAMABAD — Nusrat Bhutto — the widow of one of Pakistan’s former prime ministers and the mother of another – died Sunday in a Dubai hospital at the age of 82 after a long illness, according to a family spokesman.
The Bhuttos – because of their political clout, generations of influence, and personal tragedies – have often been called the Kennedys of Pakistan. Nusrat Bhutto, who was born in Iran but settled in Pakistan's southern city of Karachi, was this country's strong and statuesque equivalent to Jackie O.
News channels ran "breaking news" alerts to announce her death this weekend. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani declared Monday a national holiday in Pakistan, with 10 days of mourning to follow. And pictures of Bhutto from throughout her life, stylishly clad and perfectly coifed, have been playing across the networks. She appears in these images as most Pakistanis will remember her – poised and confident. She smiles warmly and gracefully greets heads of state beside her husband. She claps primly to music, seated at a flawlessly-laid table at a state event. She sits with head held high, elegantly enveloped in an evening sari, and flanked by both daughters for a family portrait.
As the matriarch of Pakistan's most powerful political clan, Nusrat Bhutto was more than a witness to history. She was, herself, a force and a player in the country's churning system of governance.
Her husband, former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, founded the Pakistan's People Party (PPP), which controls the government today. When he was overthrown in a military coup and hanged in 1979, she stepped into a leadership role, assuming the chairmanship of the PPP for the next four years until her daughter Benazir – who went on to twice serve as prime minister herself – assumed control. Bhutto later twice won elected seats in Pakistan's parliament.
But Nusrat Bhutto's family was known as much for their personal misfortune as they were for their political muscle. Her younger son, Shahnawaz, died in Paris in mysterious circumstances in 1985. Her elder son, Murtaza, was gunned down in Karachi in 1996. And her elder daughter Benazir, the first female elected to lead a Muslim country, was killed in a 2007 suicide attack after returning to Pakistan from exile in Dubai. Of Nusrat Bhutto's four children, only one – daughter, Sanam – is still alive.
According to a Pakistan's People Party spokesman, Nusrat Bhutto's body is being transported from Dubai to Pakistan today, for burial in the Bhutto family graveyard in the southern province of Sindh.