Archive for December 27th, 2007

Did this man stand a chance with a future PM?

27 December 2007

Death is a pretty grim business in Asian media. Unlike in Britain, where obituaries have been turned into a juicy art form, Asian tributes generally play it safe, spiking all the spice out of a false sense of deference. Last night, however, Karan Thapar, India’s premier television interviewer, who cut his teeth on Channel 4, was different.

Thapar was an old friend of Benazir Bhutto, the slain former prime minister of Pakistan. They had known each other since their days at Cambridge and Oxford, respectively, and Benazir had tried to get him remarried (unsuccessfully) for 18 years after his wife Nisha died of cancer.

Thapar says he spoke to her just four days and had asked her to “stay safe”.

Thapar says Bhutto also had a fine sense of humour. At one Oxbridge debate on “sex before marriage”, Thapar recalls that he rang the bell and asked her if she dared to practice what she preached. The hall went up in laughter. And after the last laugh had been heard, Benazir pulled out her spectacles, screwed her eyes, look at her future interlocutor, and said: “Certainly, but not with you.”

‘Don’t you have anything serious to write about?’

27 December 2007

Former Punjab chief minister Capt. Amarinder Singh‘s “friendship” with the Pakistani journalist Aroosa Alam has quickly and smoothly moved from the gossip columns to the front pages, with the kind lady trying to explain how a Rawalpindi-based newspaper carried a report about her reported marriage with Captain Singh prompting a fatwa from the Imam of the Jama Masjid in Ludhiana calling for a social boycott.

Alam, who counts former German chancellor Gerard Schroeder among her pals, alleged that the Rawalpindi paper’s owner nursed a grudge against her, as she participated in dislodging his hegemony at the Rawalpindi Press Club, which is why he had hit back. “The owner of the newspaper in question wanted to grab a piece of land allotted to a housing society of journalists in Islamabad. I was among those who had opposed it.”

Accused of being an ISI spy by the Akali Dal, Alam, who is the president of the Pakistan chapter of the South Asian Free Media Association and vice-president of the Rawalpindi Press Club, said she had come to India to visit Captain Amarinder Singh’s ailing mother. Her two sons too were with her, and were staying at the Moti Bagh palace in Patiala.

Preneet (Capt. Amarinder Singh’s wife) has been a good host,” Alam said at a press conference in Chandigarh yesterday.

These are the other gems the 55-year-old journalist dropped:

# “Pyaar nahin, dosti hain (It’s not love, it’s friendship). We’re good friends, not lovers, and will remain so for ever.”

# “I deny any marriage, engagement or affair“.

# “I only said I would marry him in a lighter vein.”

# “Neither he will leave his citizenship nor will I Islam (to marry).”

# “I may have a pretty face but unfortunately it has become a point of entertainment.”

# “Amarinder is a wise man, a man with a vision, a charming person. He has a good stature and is well known in Pakistan as opposed to the current Chief Minister of Punjab.”

# “While I am happy to be with my (media) colleagues (in India), I don’t understand why you have to enter my personal life. Don’t you have any serious matter to write about? Newspapers in Pakistan don’t write on personal lives of people… It is strange in india the media hits below the belt.”

# “I have travelled with Presidents and Prime Ministers on official state visits. Does that make me an ISI agent? If any of you travels abroad with your Prime Minister, does that make you an agent of the RAW? I am definitely not an ISI agent.”

Also read: No private affairs when politicians fall in love

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