DAWN - Features; May 11, 2007

Published May 11, 2007

VISITORS’ LOG: Amin Sayani overwhelmed by city’s love

By Shanaz Ramzi

AFTER quite a few futile attempts in the past, Karachi finally succeeded in playing host to the legendary broadcaster, Amin Sayani, whose dream it was to visit the city where his childhood friends live.

And he reportedly relished every minute of it. Invited by his friend, Sultan Arshad of Amateurs’ Melodies Group, Ameen Sayani's week-long trip was filled with love, adulation and action.

On his very first night here the 75-year old veteran radio compere was invited to the residence of Sultana Siddiqui, president of HUM TV, where he was introduced to a varied group of people including television and film personalities, journalists and members from the corporate sector. Sayani, whose voice is every bit as mesmerising as it was way back in the ‘50s, regaled the guests with anecdotes from his 45 year career as a Geetmala broadcaster.

The following day, between lunch at the channel and dinner at a friend’s place, Sayani met members of the press at a special briefing arranged for the purpose, and answered their eager queries. The next day was the much-awaited tribute programme held in his honour for which Ameen Sayani had been especially invited. Singers belonging to Amateurs’ Melodies Group sang hit Indian film songs from 1954 to 1969 which had been selected by the Geetmala host himself and the latter entertained the audience with bits of information about himself and his long association with the programme.

However, probably the funniest comment made by the man who was “totally floored” by the love shown for him in Pakistan was that he was impressed by Karachi ’s cleanliness!

Actor Nadeem who was also present in the audience was requested to say a few words about the electronic media giant. He not only obliged, but at Sayani’s request also sang a vintage Indian film song. Many in the audience could be seen nostalgically humming along with the singers on the stage.

Much of Sunday was spent with old friends and in sight-seeing, as indeed were Sayani’s last two days here. He also managed to take out time for a television interview to be aired on Sunday, and for an interview on FM89, not to forget a high tea hosted by a local club. Judging by the standing ovation Ameen Sayani received at the tribute programme and the affection showered on him, one feels that he is surely going to try and visit Karachi once again.

An hour with Nawaz

By M. Ziauddin

NAWAZ Sharif is certainly not a poker player. In media interviews his face betrays his mind even before he articulates his thoughts. And when confronted with questions that he would better not answer truthfully his face tells it all before he gives you a diplomatic response.

This is not to say that he is an easy prey for the media. Over the years he has become overly watchful of what he is saying. When I met him for the first time in November last year in London after many years, I thought he has successfully overcome his abrasiveness while talking politics. He no more talks in black and white terms on politics except understandably when he is venting his thoughts on the present army high command.

He is now very careful and has also learnt the art of suppressing his inner feelings when talking about controversial political issues like his past problems with the Jamaat-i-Islami or when he is characterising his present relationship with Benazir Bhutto.

So, it was not all that easy for me while talking to him early this month to identify albeit only the vague outlines of the bait Benazir has used to keep him stringing along.

When I asked a direct question as to what he thought of Benazir’s admission in her recent interviews that she was in contact with Gen Musharraf and that she was also prepared to work with him as president, he did not give a direct answer but went on a tangent with a brief lecture on what he called the ludicrous idea of offering an honourable exit to the military dictator.

“In the first place, the man is not asking for an exit, honourable or dishonourable. He very much wants to continue his oppressive rule in uniform indefinitely and, secondly, we must now be talking of plugging the entry points rather than offering him an honourable exit,” he asserted with emphatic vehemence.

Perhaps that is the bait. Perhaps Benazir has somehow made Nawaz to agree to give her at least until close to Musharraf’s ‘re-election’, that is September, 2007, to negotiate with Musharraf an honourable exit for him which she appears to have persuaded herself that he would find it almost impossible to refuse. Perhaps the mediators, the US and the UK, have somehow made her believe that that is the best option for her, for Musharraf and for the country.

Nawaz appears to have taken the bait, but not hook, line and sinker. In my opinion, he is clearly not convinced.

After the interview was over and I had switched off my tape recorder, Nawaz Sharif’s spokesman, Nadir Pervez, who along with Pervez Rashid, the former chairman of the PTV, was present on the occasion, asked me for my opinion of what Benazir was up to.

I frankly expressed my inability to read her mind or understand her reasons for what she was saying she intended doing, and turned to Nawaz saying “You should know because the way you are going along without protesting publicly she must have told you something we don’t know.”

Nawaz’ response was revealing. At first his face went all pink and he had a broad smile on it, even his eyes were smiling. Then he burst out laughing which to me appeared to be saying: Look Mr Ziauddin I know and you know that I wish she would succeed and that is why I am going along with her, but my mind says she would not and that is what is causing me a lot of anxiety and that is what I cannot say publicly which makes it very difficult for me to answer such questions.

However, while he looks to be in two minds when he is talking about Benazir, he does not mince his words when articulating his feelings about the army. In fact he at times sounds lyrical when he talks of Musharraf, his ‘mediocrity’ and the Kargil debacle.

When told that Musharraf in his book ‘In the Line of Fire’ had claimed that the Kargil operation was a grand success because it was a defensive manoeuvre rather than an aggressive action as, according to him, Indians who were planning incursions across the LoC at some places were stopped in their tracks and that it was the political leadership which had perceived and presented it as a debacle, Nawaz gave a derisive laugh.

“We went by what was on the ground. The supply lines had been cut off and our troops were dying of starvation, the international community had refused to believe that it were only the Mujahideen which had crossed the LoC, Musharraf and his troops were caught in action by satellite cameras. It was he who was begging me to go to Washington,” Nawaz said in total disdain.

But when referred to Musharraf’s version in his book that when on two occasions he was asked by the PM what to do he had told Nawaz the exact military situation which was favourable, but left on the PM the political decision of whether or not to cease fire, and that again when the PM was at the airport on his way to Washington he (Musharraf) was summoned from Murree and asked the same question and he gave the same answer, Nawaz dismissed it all as a white lie asserting that it was Musharraf who had requested him to go to Washington and that he had come from Murree on his own ostensibly to see me off and requested him once again to save his skin.

Nawaz said that only four generals, General Musharraf, Lt-Gen Javed Hasan , Lt-Gen Mehmood and Lt-Gen Aziz, knew about Kargil operations and when he was confronted by the air and naval chiefs on this issue Musharraf had no answer.

When told that according to Musharraf he was treating it as a local affair and was conducting it on need-to-know basis, the former prime minister was even more scathing. He asked, if it was that local and had to be treated with such secrecy then why did Musharraf announce the entire war plan over an open telephone line while talking to General Aziz in GHQ from his hotel room in Beijing.

© DAWN Group of Newspapers, 2007



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