Hardtalk

By: Hamid Mir      Published: 11:55 AM, 3 Dec, 2020
Hardtalk

The government ministers and advisers are seemingly very happy with BBC journalist Stephen Sackur because they think that this British journalist clean-bowled Pakistan’s former finance minister Ishaq Dar in his programme “Hardtalk”.

It was clear in “Hardtalk” that written questions were placed in front of Stephen Sackur and he had made great preparations while Ishaq Dar didn’t prepare at all. Perhaps he had come to talk about the economy but he was dragged into his property in “Hardtalk” despite the fact that several Pakistani journalists had asked this type of questions to Ishaq Dar in the past.

Not long ago noted Pakistani journalist Nasim Zehra had a detailed interview with Ishaq Dar in London which was aired on 24NewsHD TV channel. In this interview, Nasim Zehra asked every kind of questions to Ishaq Dar and the former finance minister had to tell that his cook had been abducted.

Another period of difficulties started for Nasim Zehra and her TV channel after this interview. The management of 24NewsHD TV channel was ordered to terminate the services of Nasim Zehra.

The 24NewsHD TV channel’s management refused to accept the order after which the PEMRA repeatedly acted against that channel. The PEMRA, on one hand, banned airing the interviews and statements of Ishaq Dar and, on the other, the TV channel was shut down.

During the past two-and-a-half years, the 24NewsHD TV channel has been shut four times. The last suspension lasted for 90 days and this suspension ended on the orders of Lahore High Court.

One must recall that this channel used to face wrath even under the PML-N government. The channel wouldn’t have faced any problem if the channel’s management had removed Nasim Zehra but one interview of Ishaq Dar cost this channel dearly. It is not the story of one Pakistani channel.

During the past two-and-a-half years, the pressure was exerted on several Pakistani TV channels, not one, to remove numerous journalists. Some channels budged, some didn’t surrender.

An attempt was made to make those which did not capitulate an example of them. Stephen Sacker and his organisation are lucky that they didn’t have to face the kind of situation which Nasim Zehra experienced. Doing journalism is “easy” in Great Britain and “difficult” in Pakistan.

A British journalist was reading out questions written on a paper and Ishaq Dar was answering them inarticulately. I remember that when he was the finance minister and had to answer difficult questions in Capital Talk of the Geo News, he used to taunt me that Imran Khan is your friend and then remind me of a 1993 episode. At the time Dar was president of the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry and he had invited Imran Khan to help Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital. Here Imran Khan made some remarks about Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, which I reported. The following day Imran Khan asked Dar to contradict the remarks, which Dar refused to do.

Dar kept reminding me this incident, with the remarks that your friend doesn’t stick to his words.

Now Imran Khan has become prime minister and he does not regard me as his friend rather he considers me as a friend of every opponent of the government including Nawaz Sharif, Asif Ali Zardari, Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Akhtar Mengal. When Stephen Sackur was repeatedly asking Ishaq Dar questions written on a paper then Dar Sahab could have also asked him who had written these questions for him. Dar Sahab could have also asked him that you had invited me for a talk on the economy; ask me questions other than concerning my properties also but Dar Sahab did not want to show any disrespect to his host.

Probably because he was a ‘Gora’ (white man). Dar Sahab got impressed by the Gora and Imran Khan’s ministers and advisers are also showering loads of praises on him. Dar Sahab presented himself in ‘Hardtalk’. Does the incumbent government’s Economic Affairs Adviser Dr Hafeez Shaikh has enough courage to appear in ‘Hardtalk’? The answer you know.

The job of some of the present government’s unelected advisers is to create a storm on social media against any anchor who raises a question about the government’s performance or criticize it. These advisers then make a file of this ‘storm’ and try to bring it into Imran Khan’s notice, so that a ticket for the March 2021 Senate elections can be obtained.

The unnecessary bitterness and resentment you see in the attitude of the government’s unelected advisers is to seek a Senate ticket by selling this ‘hatred’. This hatred invites hatred in reaction. Therefore, in today’s Pakistani politics we see political vendetta more and political disagreements less. The government and the Opposition both have crossed the red line.

Shehbaz Sharif had talked about reconciliation before and he still speaks about it but this narrative of him has failed. After his arrest for the second time, there is more tension in Pakistani politics now.

There is a threat that this tension will worsen after the December 13 PDM rally in Lahore. Some people think that there would be a sit-in in Islamabad by the Opposition at the end of December or at the start of January. And, a dialogue would be launched to end that sit-in.

At the moment, there are no signs of any such parleys. PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman had made it clear to his allies that there would be no dialogue as long as Imran Khan is the prime minister. There would only be hard talk which would make Pakistani politics focus of the world’s attention.

The PDM leadership like Stephen Sackur will ask some questions again and again. These questions would not be about someone’s properties, but they would start from Kashmir and move towards Palestine, and someone has to answer these questions, otherwise this hardtalk would not end soon.