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Naughty girl in school who was a good friend

New Delhi, Dec. 27: Benazir “Pinkie” Bhutto was a leader at eight.

The girl who went on to become Pakistan’s first woman Prime Minister took charge of her brothers Murtaza and Shahnawaz and sister Sanam when their parents went on their frequent trips.

“She was also in charge of the family home in the busy city of Karachi. This was serious responsibility. Yet it seemed a natural duty to Benazir. It would help to shape her future character,” wrote Libby Hughes in From Prison to Prime Minister, a biography of the late leader.

For those who knew her, “Pinkie” Ś the name her family called her by Ś was a warm person with a great sense of humour. To her friends, Benazir was the girl who threw stink bombs to delay exams in school, loved movies and had long conversations.

“I remember buying stink bombs in a joke shop in London,” Benazir told the girls at her old school in Karachi in 1987, Hughes wrote in her book.

“The next time we had an exam, I passed a few of them to my friends. As soon as the exam began, we put them under our chairs and crushed them,” the book says.

Journalist Karan Thapar who met her while she was in Oxford Ś both were passionate debaters Ś remembers the first time he was up against her in a debate.

The topic was sex before marriage. Benazir was speaking for the motion. “I ran up and rang the ding-dong hard and said, ‘Madam, would you practise what you preach?’ There was a huge applause. She waited for the applause to stop, took off her glasses, screwed up her nose, and said: ‘Certainly, but not with you’.”

Thapar travelled from England to attend Benazir’s wedding, a detail the former Prime Minister was aware of. She insisted on meeting him the next day to ensure he felt included.

“She called me at night when my wife Nisha was in hospital. She knew how to be a friend. I came to hospital one day to find a huge bouquet; it was almost a tree.”

Yousaf Salahuddin, a family friend and colleague in Pakistan People’s Party, first met Benazir when she was only nine.

“She has always been a strong person,” he said. “I remember when there were riots in Lahore. We were in the Provincial Assembly and the building was on fire. Benazir saw that the picture of the founder of Pakistan was damaged. She insisted that the picture be replaced immediately. She stood there, till the picture was replaced.”

Aware of the dangers of returning to her country, Benazir was not deterred even after she was attacked within hours of reaching Pakistan. “She was not scared,” Salahuddin said.

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