Kulsoom Nawaz, 68, dies in London

Prime Minister Imran Khan has directed the Pakistani High Commission in London to assist the bereaved family and provide all necessary facilities to the heirs of the deceased. (AFP/File)
Updated 11 September 2018

Kulsoom Nawaz, 68, dies in London

  • Ex-PM Nawaz Sharif’s wife was undergoing cancer treatment in the UK
  • PM Khan directs officials to provide all assistance to deceased’s family in London

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s former first lady, Kulsoom Nawaz, died at the Harley Street Clinic in London, on Tuesday, succumbing to a long battle with cancer.
Three times ex-premier Nawaz Sharif’s wife, 68-year-old Kulsoom was on life support for several weeks before she finally slipped into a coma in June this year following a cardiac arrest. 
She was diagnosed with lymphoma in August 2017.
Shahbaz Sharif, the former chief minister of Punjab and Nawaz’s younger brother, confirmed the news in a tweet.
Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed deep grief at the turn of events, directing the Pakistan High Commission in London to assist the bereaved family with all help required.

Chief of Army Staff, Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, also expressed his heartfelt condolences to the Sharif family. In comments, tweeted by Military Spokesman Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, Bajwa said: “May Allah bless the departed soul with eternal peace at Heaven — Amen”.
Nawaz and his daughter Maryam Nawaz are currently lodged in Rawalpindi’s Adiala jail for money laundering and were informed by family members about Kulsoom’s death.
On July 10, the father-daughter duo was sentenced to 10 and seven years in prison, respectively, and arrested a week later after their return to Pakistan from the UK.
Their counsel has submitted a request for them to be allowed to attend the final rituals in Lahore, on humanitarian grounds. Nawaz’s party leadership said it hopes that they will be granted bail.
During her illness, Kulsoom’s two sons, Hassan and Hussain Nawaz, took care of her in London. Since both are wanted by authorities, it is unlikely they will return to Pakistan to attend the funeral. 
Kulsoom married Nawaz in 1970 and went on to retain the title of the first lady following her husband’s election to the office of prime minister in 1990, 1997, and during his last term from 2013 to 2017.
She was elected as a member of National Assembly from Lahore in September 2017. She contested the election from the seat vacated by her husband after the Supreme Court disqualified him from holding public office in the Panama Papers’s scandal in July 2017.
She is survived by her husband and their four children.


Lebanon family restless as it awaits missing ‘heroes’

Updated 44 min 48 sec ago

Lebanon family restless as it awaits missing ‘heroes’

  • Najib Hitti, 27, Charbel Hitti, 22 and Charbel Karam, 37, all relatives, left together in one firetruck to douse a port blaze believed to have sparked the August 4 mega-blast
  • The Hittis’ hopes of seeing their loved ones alive have dimmed since the army on Sunday said it had concluded search and rescue operations with little to no hope of finding survivors

QARTABA, Lebanon: Three firefighters. One Lebanese family. The same restless wait. Rita Hitti has not slept a wink since the Beirut port blast, when her firefighting son, nephew and son-in-law went missing.
“In one piece or several, we want our sons back,” she told AFP from the Hitti family’s home in the mountain town of Qartaba, north of Beirut.
“We have been waiting for the remains for six days,” she added, dark circles under her eyes.
Najib Hitti, 27, Charbel Hitti, 22 and Charbel Karam, 37, all relatives, left together in one firetruck to douse a port blaze believed to have sparked the August 4 mega-blast that killed 160 people and wounded at least 6,000 others across town.
They were among the first rescuers at the scene. They have not been heard of since.
Near the entrance to their Qartaba home, the three men are praised as “heroes” in a huge banner unfurled over a wall.
The double exposure shot shows them in the foreground dressed sharply in suits.
In the background, the blast’s now-infamous pink plume rises above their heads as they try to douse a fire.
An eerie calm filled the stone-arched living room, where dozens of relatives and neighbors gathered around Rita, the mother of Najib Hitti.
The women were mum, the men whispered between themselves, the young shuffled in and out of the room, quietly.
Karlen, Rita’s daughter, looked among the most sombre, with her husband Charbel Karam, brother Najib and cousin Charbel all missing.
Sitting next to her mother on the couch, she fought back tears and did not say a single word.
The Hittis’ hopes of seeing their loved ones alive have dimmed since the army on Sunday said it had concluded search and rescue operations with little to no hope of finding survivors.
The health ministry has said the number of missing stands at less than 20, while the army announced it had lifted five corpses from beneath the rubble.
A large blaze was still ripping through the blast site when the Hittis and other relatives of port employees dashed to the disaster zone to check on their loved ones.
But they were stopped by security forces.
“I told them I would know my boys from their smell,” Rita said she told an officer who barred her from the site.
“Let me enter to search for them and when I whiff their smell I will know where they are,” the mother said she pleaded.
Ever since, her hopes have gradually dwindled, but her anger is boiling.
Lebanese authorities have pledged a swift investigation but the exact cause of the blast remains unclear.
Authorities say it was triggered by a fire of unknown origin that broke out in a port warehouse where a huge pile of highly volatile ammonium nitrate fertilizer had been left unsecured for years.
Whatever the cause of the fire was, the popular consensus is that the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of officials in charge of the port as well those who have ruled Lebanon country for decades.
“We gave them heroes and they returned them to us as ‘martyrs’,” Rita said, scoffing at the label officials have used to brand blast casualties.
“What martyrs? What were they protecting? The noxious things (authorities) were hiding in the port?” she asked rhetorically.
“They are martyrs of treachery.”
George, father of Charbel Hitti, also rushed to the blast site to look for his son and relatives after the explosion.
“I started to scream their names: Najib, Charbel... I was like a mad man,” he told AFP.
“We waited until 6 in the morning the next day for clues to what happened,” he said.
“In the end, I started crying.”
He did manage, however, to get one piece of information from a port security official close to the family who was at the scene of the blaze when the firefighting team first arrived on August 4.
The security official had told him that the firefighters were trying to break open the door to the ammonium nitrate warehouse because they could not find the keys before the explosion ripped the whole place apart.
A week has since passed and George said hopes of finding the three men alive have faded.
Assuming they are dead, George said he now wants one thing: “We just want DNA test results that are compatible with those of Charbel, Najib and Charbel,” he said.
“Imagine. This is everything we now wish for.”