Geo aired Karzai's interview in its original form -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Geo aired Karzai’s interview in its original form

Saleem Safi

ISLAMABAD: The airing of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s interview in Geo TV’s programme ‘Jirga’ has caused a stir across the world. From New York Times to Washington Post and from Hindustan Times to The Hindu have commented on it.

Similarly it is the most debated issue in national and international TV talk shows. The Afghan print and electronic media is telecasting nothing else except discussing the issue.

A spokesman for the Afghan president issued a clarification in this regard that some newspapers have misreported the interview, and the entire text of the same in Pashtu and Darri languages was issued to the media. Some Afghan friends are using websites and even Facebook not only to criticise Hamid Karzai but also accusing this correspondent as well as Geo TV of becoming part of a big conspiracy. Although in Pakistan the interview has been generally welcomed, still some have taken ill the anti-US stance of the Afghan president and they have vented their anger in their own way.

I intend to bring the background of the interview in this context, so that the positions of Geo TV and of myself become clear.

In the first place not a single word has either been added or deleted from the portion pertaining to US and India. The interview telecast by Geo TV can be compared with the one available on the tape with the media team of the Afghan president. The press release of spokesman of Afghan president has mentioned misreporting by some newspapers and not by Geo TV. Geo TV has aired the interview in its original form whereas Washington Post or New York Times etc have reported it in their own way and with their own comments for which neither I am nor is Geo TV responsible.

Some quarters have raised questions about the time and method of the interview. In this respect it is stated that a request for interview was made by Geo TV two weeks ago, and it was fixed by Abdul Karim Khurram, chief of staff of the Afghan president for 10 am on Thursday, 20th of October. Accompanied by my producer Shabbir Ahmad Wahgra and cameraman Salman Qazi I went to Kabul on Tuesday, the reason being that there was no flight to Kabul on Wednesday. On the night between Wednesday and Thursday I was informed by the staff of the Afghan president that the interview has been delayed by one day because of the visit of Hillary Clinton to Kabul and now it will take place on Friday at 11am. We were told to reach the Arg (Presidential Palace) at 10am. We were further told that we could not take our cameras along and the same would be arranged by the president’s staff.

Before the interview Hamid Karzai invited me for a cup of tea and in this meeting too his staff was present. When he asked me about the topics for the interview, I told him the topics and made an offer that he was free to add or delete some topics. Neither I told him the questions nor he gave me the answers. However there was a consensus on topics and President Karzai and his staff would bear me out on that.

During the interview when he uttered the sentence: “God forbid, if there is a war between Pakistan and US, Afghanistan would stand by Pakistan”. I ventured to make him realise that he was saying something big. In spite of that he continued in the same strain. Then I asked him what would he do in case there is a war between Pakistan and India. He said whosoever attacks Pakistan and Pakistan requests Afghanistan for support, it would stand by Pakistan in the same way as Pakistan has been with Afghanistan.

Besides my producer Shabbir Ahmad Wahgra and cameraman Salman Qazi, the entire media team of President Karzai will bear testimony to the fact that while we got up to beg leave to offer Friday prayers, I told President Karzai that he has given a statement that would create sensation in the world. Still he did not ask me to delete that portion of the interview. This proves that it was a well thought out statement.

It is usual that the staff of the Afghan president records the interview separately with their own cameras. Since their own cameras were being used for our recording, therefore they had not prepared a copy of the interview.

After Friday prayers we were asked to stay for the lunch and we took our lunch there, but no one asked to delete this portion of the interview. When we were leaving, the media team of President Karzai asked us to leave the interview cassettes there and told that they would return the original of the interview after getting its copy. I complied with and they returned the cassettes to our hotel in the evening after getting a copy of the same. When we checked we found that the staff of the president had been absolutely honest and had not deleted even a single word from the interview.

This interview was recorded on Friday and I remained in the Serena Hotel till Saturday morning and returned to Islamabad the same day. Geo aired the interview Saturday evening. The original time of the interview was 48 minutes, therefore the last 10 minutes recording was withheld. The portion withheld was not from the middle of the interview but the last portion was secured to be made part of the next programme. This portion is not related to the issue under discussion but pertains to questions and answers about the future of American bases in Afghanistan.

AFP adds: President Hamid Karzai sought to distance himself Monday from controversial remarks made in an interview in which he said Afghanistan would back Pakistan against the US if the two ever came to blows.

The presidential palace said Karzai’s comments, made in an interview with Geo TV at the weekend, were ‘misinterpreted’. The palace insisted the remarks were broadcast out of context. “Pakistani media has misinterpreted it,” said the president’s deputy spokesman Seyamak Herawi.

“They only showed the first part when the president says Afghanistan will back Pakistan if there is a war.” Instead, the reference was to Afghanistan’s willingness to house refugees from Pakistan in case of any conflict, in the way that millions of Afghans are given refuge across the border in Pakistan’s northwestern frontier region. “But in connection with the war on terrorism if there is a war on Pakistan, Afghanistan will not support that,” he further stated.
Source: The News