Caught in the midst of a slugfest between former Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and Congress leaders, Pakistan journalist Aroosa Alam said she was “extremely disappointed and disgusted with Punjab Congress politicians” and would “never come back to India” as she was “hurt and heartbroken”.
Last week, Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa had said that a probe would be conducted on Alam’s alleged ISI links. Amarinder had hit back and in tweets posted on his behalf by his media adviser Raveen Thukral, had said Alam had been “coming for 16 years with due GoI clearances”.
“I cannot believe that they can stoop so low. Sukhjinder Randhawa, PPCC chief Navjot Singh Sidhu and his wife (Navjot Kaur Sidhu) are a pack of hyenas. They are trying to use me to embarrass Captain. I want to ask them, are they so bankrupt that they have to invoke me for their political motives,” she said, speaking to The Indian Express over the phone from Pakistan.
Saying she while she has “no business” to comment on the situation in the state, “I would like to tell them that they were trapped. Their enemy advised them to invoke me. But it going to turn counter-productive.” She, however, didn’t name the “enemy”.
“I have a message for them: Please grow up and put your house in order. Congress has lost its plot in Punjab. Who changes one’s general in the middle of a battle?” she said, referring to Singh’s ouster as CM months ahead of the Assembly elections. “They are a deeply divided House. Now please fight your battle on your own, why are you dragging me into this Punjab Congress and government mess? Now that they have dragged me into it, I can only say ‘Your monkeys, your circus’.”
On Randhawa’s remarks on her alleged ISI links, Aroosa said, “I have been coming to India for two decades, for 16 years, on Captain’s invite and before that, as a journalist and as part of delegations. Have they suddenly woken up to my links? When anybody comes to India from Pakistan, he/she has to go through a cumbersome process of clearance. No process was bypassed. Due screening was done. The clearances had to be taken from R&AW, IB, Union Ministry of Home, External Affairs. They do not even allow the visa form to be filled online. They think all the agencies were allowing me just like that?”
“I want to ask all these people if they think both the UPA and NDA governments were incompetent that they were granting visa to an ISI agent? Tell them to talk some sense. They wanted to embarrass Captain by dragging me into the whole controversy. They realised that he is floating his own party and finish all their chances… I sent him (Singh) pictures of various leaders from India whom I met in my life before even meeting Captain. I must say all this is the lowest low in Punjab politics,” she said.
On Monday, Singh Monday released Alam’s photographs with former Union ministers Sushma Swaraj and Yashwant Sinha, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former Uttar Pradesh CM Mulayam Singh Yadav, among others, and asked if these leaders are “ISI contacts too”.
Dismissing the charge that by virtue of her association with Singh, she interfered in Punjab politics, Alam said that she did not even know the portfolios held by various ministers. “I never cared. People used to tell me that this department is good and that department is not. But I never cared. I made a lot of friends. All of them switched sides and now they are rallying behind a mad man. What is their character?”
On Amarinder’s decision to float a party, she said, “I am not in a position to comment as it is his decision. I wish him well. He has been a great friend. I pray for him. He is a very fine gentleman. In this huge world, he has chosen me to be his friend. I am very proud of that. I have learnt a lot from him. I feel sorry the way he was elbowed out. I wish him well. He will do well for himself.”
Saying she is “very fond of” Sonia Gandhi, she said, “I admire her a lot. I have good feelings for her and the Congress as I used to write a lot about Indo-Pak relations. Congress had such majority in Punjab, but now it is rudderless, directionless.”
Alam also hit out at Navjot Kaur Sidhu and PCC chief Sidhu’s aide Mohd Mustafa over their recent comments.
On Saturday, Navjot Kaur had accused Alam of “receiving kickbacks” for postings in Punjab. Mustafa had also taken on Singh for tweeting Alam’s photograph with Sonia Gandhi.
Alam said, “Razia used to call me her sister. So did Mustafa. He perhaps has this misconception that I did not let him be the DGP. He is holding that grudge against me while it was the UPSC that chose the panel. Anyway, I do not expect anything from them.”
Saying she hasn’t visited India in over a year, Alam said, “The lady (Navjot Kaur Sidhu) says I have absconded with money and jewellery. I want to ask her if it is possible. There are so many layers of security one has to go through. Also, I want to tell them that I have not absconded. I have come back home.”
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines