December 27, 2007 12:53:39 am
The Pakistani writer on security who is termed as a security threat to India by some Punjab politicians today fielded and pitched questions at an over-crowded Chandigarh Press Club.
Aroosa Alam, whose friendship with former Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has generated allegations by Akali MLAs in the Assembly and considerable media attention, said the Indian media had created a controversy where none existed.
“Capt Amarinder is my good friend. We first met when he was the Chief Minister at a function of the Jalandhar Press Club. I don’t know from where the entire controversy has arisen. All this is politically-motivated,” she said.
She also claimed that she and Amarinder had played an important part in the now-stalled peace process between India and Pakistan.
Alam tackled questions with ease. “While I am happy to be with my colleagues, I don’t understand why you have to enter my personal life. Don’t you have any serious matter to write about? “ she said.
“Newspapers in Pakistan don’t write on personal lives of people,” she said. When reminded that the controversy about her relationship with Amarinder was started by a Pakistan newspaper, she said, “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. The owner had some grudge against me.” She added that no other newspaper in Pakistan had carried the story. “But in India all newspapers lifted it and called me and Amarinder Singh ISI agents. This is unfair,” she said.
She did accept that the Indian government had denied her a visa to visit the country immediately after the Punjab Assembly elections. Referring to the allegation that she was an agent of the ISI, she said, “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.”
Asked about the fatwa issued by the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid, Ludhiana, asking Muslims to boycott her for moving around with a man other than her blood relation, Aroosa said illiterate clerics are the bane of a civilised society.
Alam, who is president of the Islamabad chapter of South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA), said, “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, whose name is not known to anybody in Pakistan.”
Alam who said that her two children were also here said Amarinder’s wife Preneet Kaur had nothing against her. “I am staying at the Moti Bagh Palace, Patiala. Preneet has been a good host. I have met Natwar Singh and other members of Amarinder’s family too. This visit was only to meet the ailing mother of Amarinder. Nobody other than the media has a problem,” she said.
Alam today clarified that she was only joking a few days ago when she was quoted as having said she would like to marry Amarinder. “It was said in a lighter vein. Ask the journalist about it,” she said.
Alam said the media coverage about her alleged liaison with Amarinder was causing problems for her in Pakistan. However, she avoided a question on whether her relationship with Amarinder was “more than just friendship.”
Meanwhile, three Akali Dal legislators have challenged Amarinder to persuade his wife to endorse the legitimacy of his relationship with Alam. In a statement issued today, the MLAs asked the former chief minister to explain to the people of Punjab why he had never appeared in public with Alam and his family together.
MLAs Virsa Singh Valtoha, Sohan Singh Thandal and Des Raj Dhugga also wanted to know if he approved of Alam’s remarks adversely comparing the Indian democracy, society and the media with those in Pakistan. Alam had said that Pakistan had a more free and mature democracy and media than India.
• Amarinder and I are good friends and will remain so for ever. Amarinder is a visionary.
• Gerhard Schroeder (former German Chancellor) and I are also friends.
• My friendship with Amarinder has cost him a lot.
• In India, I am treated as a source of entertainment rather than a senior journalist.
• Best bet for Pakistan would be Pervez (Musharraf) joining hands with Benazir (Bhutto).
• Women like me have made lot of difference in Pakistan.
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