New York: Little did I know that a short, off-camera breakfast conversation with Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would be distorted to such a grave extent. I went to meet PM Sharif to pursue an interview, one that he gave to our network, and one in which he in fact called Prime Minister Manmohan Singh "a good man" whom he would like to welcome in Pakistan "for a long overdue visit". (Watch: Manmohan Singh is a good man, Nawaz Sharif tells NDTV)
Before the interview started, Pakistan's PM was meeting with a small group of people, his officials and some Pakistani journalists for breakfast. PM Sharif invited me to have a cup of tea with them, since I was there for the interview.
During this informal conversation, PM Sharif expressed unhappiness over the fact that Pakistan had been so central to the meeting between PM Singh and US President Barack Obama. He argued that India should have brought its grievances to Pakistan directly. He also said it reminded him of an allegorical story of a dispute between two people in a village, in which one was a woman. The moral of his story was that disputes should be settled between parties directly and not involve a third party.
The phrase "dehati aurat" was not used for Prime Minister Singh in my presence. There was also, in my presence, no other pejorative word or derogatory phrase used for PM Singh. His story was an illustrative example of dispute resolutions between India, Pakistan and the United States.
I was taken aback when informed that Hamid Mir of Geo had said otherwise in a phone report. Normally, informal, off record conversations are not for reporting. But when I saw how this conversation, at least the part that I witnessed, was distorted, I felt I must share some of these details to set the record straight.
It is significant that since then Hamid Mir, who was the sole basis of this entire controversy, has also retracted his original narrative on Twitter saying that "nothing derogatory was said by Sharif about the PM".
Since this controversy erupted, a senior Pakistan editor, Absar Alam of Aaj TV, who was also present at the breakfast chat, has officially confirmed my assertion that the phrase 'dehati aurat' was never used for Dr Manmohan Singh in our presence. He says, his colleague Hamid Mir was the one who came up with the phrase, not Nawaz Sharif.
This should seal the lid on a needless controversy.