2013, New Delhi, News, Telegraph Calcutta

Bilawal-Bhutto-Zardari: Now Faryal Talpur in Pakistan’s Alchemy of Power

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s quiet exit to Dubai sometime last week could mean any of several things: business rendezvous, recreation break, sabbatical from security scares, brat tantrum. It could also mean a mid-campaign shove to the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) by its recently anointed patron-in-chief.

Few in Pakistan are prepared to be convinced yet the prodigal Bhutto son has pressed self-eject following a dust-up with his presidential father and de facto PPP boss Asif Ali Zardari. Many are ingesting it with dollop doses of salt because Bilawal’s departure — and its circumstances — was revealed by an Indian wire service, the Press Trust of India (PTI).

This makes for an enigmatic pattern to blockbuster newsbreaks on Bilawal, whatever their worth or truth: they seem to originate not in Pakistan but pop up elsewhere in the subcontinent. Last September, the Blitz of Dhaka had front-paged a flaming, though fanciful, tale of illicit love between Bilawal and Pakistan’s glamorous foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar. It is still not clear what part, if any, Bilawal or Hina Khar had in it; the ISI most likely did. The appearance of the ISI’s by-line on it dealt the tale of the “fiery affair” a swift kiss of death.

But stranger things have happened in Pakistan than celebrity scandal; that’s commonplace for Pakistan’s influential and politically incestuous elite swim a small and crowded pond. Continue reading “Bilawal-Bhutto-Zardari: Now Faryal Talpur in Pakistan’s Alchemy of Power”

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2012, Pakistan, Reportage, Telegraph Calcutta

Certificate for Nitish, Made in Pakistan

Sankarshan Thakur, The Telegraph

Lahore, Nov. 18: There’s a bequest chief minister Nitish Kumar has carried back home from Pakistan that escaped the customs authorities at Wagah.

He has been gifted so profusely over the past week by his hosts, it required a station wagon to be added to his road caravan; the aircraft hold on the final lap to Patna would probably have choked on their burden — trophy plaques, a rainbow range of traditional hats, piles of shawls and chadars, carton-loads of tomes on a shared civilisation and history.

But the takeaway that neither registered nor bleeped on the crossover X-ray ramps is what Nitish might want to treasure most from his trip — it’s endorsement from a constituency that has dogged and harried generations of Indian leaders, a certificate of recognition and respect, Made in Pakistan. Continue reading “Certificate for Nitish, Made in Pakistan”

2012, Islamabad, Reportage, Telegraph Calcutta

Captain Nitish on Imran turf

Sankarshan Thakur, The Telegraph

Islamabad, Nov. 14: Never before in his career as cricketer or as politician has Imran Khan vacated his high head-of-the- table seat.

On the sprawling hillside lawns of his Bani Galla estate yesterday afternoon, the towering icon in crisp salwar suit made way for a diminutive man in creased khaddar and sat listening to a lecture he has hitherto assumed to be his sole prerogative, whether it was the cricket dressing room or the party parlours of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.

“Main yahan koi takreer nahin karne wala, Nitishbhai, I and my team have much to learn from you, questions to ask and answers to find, so this floor is yours,” Imran announced as soon as the Bihar chief minister spilled out onto the manor terrace. Thereon, for an hour and a little more, he was rapt, apprentice-like, ingesting Nitish Kumar’s governance mantra, cricket’s emperor gathering the ropes of the new realm he is bidding to conquer: government. Continue reading “Captain Nitish on Imran turf”