In a country that is seldom united by interests outside of food, cricket, and nationalism, drawing rooms and internet timelines on Tuesday echoed with one, simple question: What was Ishaq Dar thinking?

Appearing in a 20-minute interview on BBC’s HardTalk, the former’s Finance Minister of Pakistan was subjected to grilling of disastrous proportions by programme host Stephen Sackur. In what became a viral clip, Dar—who is banned by PEMRA from appearing on Pakistani television shows — is witnessed being stumped by Sackur’s insistent questions regarding the number of properties under his and his family’s name.

“It’s all declared in my tax returns,” a flustered Dar insists. “Everything is accounted for.”

Upon further questioning, he decides on his answer: “Only one property.”

The decisiveness of Dar’s answer is not reflected in his demeanour, which, for all intents and purposes, lacks all indications of resolve. As one casual commentator puts it, witnessing the interaction is “akin to putting a time-lapse on a train wreck.”

Which begs the question everyone now asks: Why did Ishaq Dar—or his son, who claims to have arranged the interview—deem it appropriate to appear on a show notorious for its intensity?

Was it the reputation of the host, Sackur, who is known to bulldoze through boulders tougher than Dar? Was it the subtlety of the show’s title, HardTalk? Or was it Pakistani politicians’ fondest and most cherished habit: plain old recklessness?

Dar claims none of these answers. In a Tweet issued soon after his reputation became a minefield of attacks, he defended the viral clip using a unique justification: it was merely “out of context!”

Two days after the airing of the interview, in a web interview with Naya Daur Media, Dar stuck to his stance, with added garnishing: Sackur did not pose the questions that had been discussed prior to the interview, and edited out crucial political commentary offered by Dar. Evidently, journalistic standards resisting pandering to politicians and their viewpoints rattled the innocent sensibilities of the seasoned professional – who after years in the government should’ve been better attuned to the wily ways of interviewers.  

The gripes with BBC may be well-warranted, but hardly address the controversy itself. No amount of additional context, commentary, or documents can compensate the decidedly embarrassing spectacle that Dar raised on international media.

Fortunately for Dar, showing face back home would require abandoning his absconder status. If the interview taught us anything, we can expect another three years of wait.

Ishaq Dar explaining how he was “tricked” by HardTalk


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