A Hardly Talked Interview

Zulfiqar Haiderali

First appeared in Dawn


With apologies to BBC's HARDtalk

Recently, a famous global news channel conducted an interview with yours truly. It was subsequently denied broadcast by the network's authorities due to "national security implications". For the benefit of Dawn readers, however, here is an extract from that ill-fated interview:

Him Sarcastian: After the tragic events in New York on September the 11th and the resulting 'war on terror', there has been wide-spread unrest on the streets of major Pakistani cities. My guest today is a member of the public opinion from the largest Pakistani city Karachi's sprawling down-trodden neighbourhood, Teen Talwar - a place that has seen one of the worst economic down-turn in the aftermath of the violent rallies by religious extremists groups. Welcome to Hardly Talked!

Me: My pleasure.

Him: Some say you're a terrorist?

Me: I'd like to find those who say that and plug their neighbourhood drains. Mine is a philosophy of peace. Terrorism, I believe is a term coined by---

Him: But your current status as the Acting General Secretary for the political movement called "Peace Through Anger" clearly exposes you as a potential U.S. target, don't you think so?

Me: Well, the U.S. led coalition is nothing but a band of like-minded, ignorantly thrill-seeking fools who--

Him: That's an extraordinary assessment from a person who claims to be a custodian of the All Pakistan Bus & Coach Drivers' Pro Bin Laden Party! Do you realize how much direct impact your conclusions could have on the Palestinian-Israeli peace agreements, not to mention Beijing's continued efforts to become a member of the World Trade Organization?

Me: You see, the WTO sponsored treaties seriously undermine Pakistan's just and principled view on the Basque separatist movement in Spain. Now, having said that I would also--

Him: But you're on record saying that Osama Bin Laden's boyhood fascination with Jazz, especially blues maestro John Lee Hooker, has been a grossly negligent intelligence failure on CIA's part? And also, that this has caused significant military implications on Taliban's closest past ally, the Pakistani Intelligence Community?

Me: That's an out-of-context referral to my recently successful organized campaign for preventing a number of musical concerts by an Arab singer Khaled. What I was hinting at was of no particular--

Him: Let me refer to a 1989 U.N. Report on the misuse of Ozone-depleting toilet substances within Karachi's Afghan Refugees. It mentions your name six times as one of the key figures perpetrating systematic anti-environmental activities!

Me: Again, I do not recall any such report. However, I do remember my support for initiating a political campaign against the entry of noisy auto-rickshaws in the vicinity of Canadian-built Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (KANUPP). Our stand was based strictly on environmental grounds. We were against the harmful acoustic impact on the Plant's sensitive anti-warfare installations, which were designed to retaliate terrorist attacks and could not distinguish--

Him: But those terrorist attacks never took place!

Me: True, if only you would let me finish, but maybe you're incapable of understanding even a child's reasoning. What I'm trying to establish here is that the auto-rickshaw acoustic levels set off warning alarms a number of times. It resulted in--

Him: That's not true, is it! During an apologetic press conference, right after you had led a group of student militants which stormed into a wedding party, you admitted there was, indeed, no evidence of Heinz Ketchup being served there, do you deny that?

Me: No, I do not deny that. That was again, an expensive and embarrassing intelligence failure. Our raid was admittedly planned on the basis of misguided reports. But I was a man enough to accept my mistakes, and would also like to point out that there were no civilian casualties.

Him: That is not an acceptable code of conduct from a man of your responsibility, is it?

Me: As I said, it was unfortunate… but then neither acceptable are U.S. bombing of a Chinese Embassy and its support for continued Israeli occupation and aggression in Palestinian Authority. Look, all I'm saying is that in the interest of greater national security, sometimes you engage in a tactical assault which may prove to be erroneous. But strategically, it can have a sustained impact. Similarly--

Him: And do you also deny the charges that you were identified as one of the top masterminds behind the 1998 fire-cracker assault on a Police deployment during New Year's celebrations at a beach resort?

Me: Do you have proof of that? Even the Crime Investigation Agency exonerated me for lack of evidence.

Him: Of course there's ample acceptable proof in the press! An entire panel of Supreme Court Judges was appointed by the then-president, allowing a hearing against you! Do you deny that?

Me: Perhaps if you used your head instead of computer generated library clippings, you'd realize that there was not a single shred of evidence that could indict me. Is it very 'hard' for you to fathom? The Supreme Court's refusal to allow a hearing afterwards is more than--

Him: Okay, let me… let me take you back a little… You graduated magna cum laude from the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where you were on presidential scholarship. You then spent three years at National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as a consultant on rocket fuselage. After that, you were hired by French Space Agency as one of their key advisors on Hydraulic Flush Mechanisms for the International Space Programme. You are invited all over the world, including Cambridge and Harvard, to packed lectures on Evolution of Human-Chimpanzee Psychology and its Impact on Space Travel. And yet, you declined to be appointed as the Director of Strategic Studies at Pakistan's Institute of Taliban Behavioural Sciences - why??

Me: Thanks for refreshing my resume (laughter). No, I did not decline anything. I was overruled to be superceded by a retired army major whose experience in Badakhshan Province was considered superior to my research. Later I withdrew.

Him: You withdrew and then you went on a rampage! The worst organized civil disobedience your country has ever seen?

Me: You tell me, what were my options? In fact, I would like to recruit a tough-ass western media bullhorn like yourself - interested?

Him: Let me think about it during my upcoming vacation in Bahamas. Thank you very much indeed for joining me on this Hardly Talked interview. Thank you.

Me: Thank you!