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.
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.
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