Bhutto educated to 'O' level stage by Irish nuns

 

Benazir Bhutto was educated by Irish nuns of the Jesus and Mary congregation, from kindergarten to "O" level, at their schools in Karachi and Murre in Pakistan.

The congregation's provincial in Ireland, Sr Máirín McDonagh, said yesterday that among the teachers at those schools at that time were Sr Eugene Glass from Dublin, Sr Berchmans Conway from Clare, Sr de Salles Timlin, Sr Nancy Doyle and Sr Mercedes O'Boyle from Mayo and Sr Veronica Barrins from Sligo. She also said that on a visit to Ireland in 1994 Ms Bhutto had requested that members of the congregation be invited to a State dinner hosted by President Mary Robinson at Dublin Castle.

Fr Michael Conway, parish priest of Crossmolina, Co Mayo, said yesterday that another Jesus and Mary nun, Sr Freddie Connor from the parish, had taught Ms Bhutto. Sr Connor died in Pakistan last year, but visited Crossmolina regularly until then. Many of the Jesus and Mary nuns who taught in Pakistan had attended the congregation's school at Gortnor Abbey near Crossmolina.

Sr Gráinne Hanley, from between Ballina and Enniscrone, also attended Gortnor Abbey and spent 24 years in Pakistan. She recalled yesterday being at the congregation's kindergarten in Karachi when Benazir Bhutto's eldest daughter Bakhtawar (now 17) was admitted there in the early 1990s. The child was moved to Islamabad in 1993 when her mother became Pakistan's prime minister for the second time.

Ms Bhutto had attended the same kindergarten at Karachi before going to the congregation's primary school at Murre after which she attended their high school in Karachi where she took her "O" levels before going to Harvard University in the US at the age of 16.

Sr Gráinne said that Sr Eugene Glass had been an influence on Ms Bhutto and they continued to be in contact after she became involved in public life. Sr Eugene had been headmistress at the Karachi high school and also taught English.

In later life, Ms Bhutto ended her regular talks with the nun when she became aware that Pakistan's security forces were taking an interest. But when she became prime minister in 1993 she presented Sr Eugene with an award for her contribution to education in Pakistan. It was the first time a religious sister was so honoured in that country.

Sr Gráinne also said that Ms Bhutto's younger brother Murtaza (42) was shot and killed outside their high school in Karachi in 1996. Six of his supporters were also killed then during an altercation with police. Seven Irish sisters remain at the congregation's schools in Pakistan.