Wednesday Dec 23 2020
Web Desk

Ishaq Dar 'wanted to be on' BBC's HARDtalk, reveals Stephen Sackur

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BBC HARDtalk host Stephen Sackur (L) and PML-N leader Ishaq Dar (R). YouTube/BBC News اردو/Screenshot via &

  • Sackur says Ishaq Dar "was happy to come in and give us the interview"
  • Praised PML-N leader, saying Ishaq Dar was "a very direct speaker"
  • Terms conversation as "pretty intense", says Dar "also seemed to enjoy it"
  • Notes that there were "various ways" to bring politicians back to the straightforward questions

ISLAMABAD/LONDON: PML-N leader Ishaq Dar himself "wanted to be on" BBC's HARDtalk, revealed the hard-hitting show's host, Stephen Sackur, who was "delighted" to interview Pakistan's former finance minister.

"I was delighted that Ishaq Dar wanted to be on the show. We want to — and we're making a very conscious effort — cover Pakistan more thoroughly in HARDtalk so when he said he was happy to come in and give us the interview, we were very delighted about that," Sackur told BBC correspondent Aliya Nazki.

The famed HARDtalk host, who has been the show's presenter for "the best part of 15 years", however, praised the PML-N leader as well, saying he was "a very direct speaker".

Read more: How did PTI lawmakers, ministers respond to Ishaq Dar's interview?

"It was a pretty intense conversation and I enjoyed the experience," Sackur added, noting that it went along with the theme of his show. "I think, you know, at the time, Mr Dar also seemed to enjoy it and think it was worthwhile."

He explained that he has learnt through his experience how to handle politicians who wanted to dodge direct questions or wished to present only what they had to say.

"I've been become quite used to the methods that politicians and public figures used to try to get their message across and not necessarily always answer the direct question that I've asked.

Also read: Did PML-N distance itself from Ishaq Dar after 'controversial' interview?

"There are various ways to try to bring them back to the straightforward question. Sometimes, the question needs to be repeated several times. Perhaps, it can be reframed... rephrased. But essentially I'm trying to bring them back to the question that I want them to address."

The BBC journalist added that he has developed a trick to get back to the politicians in a manner that they may be caught by surprise. "If the politician or the public figure isn't giving too much away, one can perhaps move away for a while, then come back," he said.

"There are different techniques. Some interviewees embrace the challenge and are very frank and direct from the beginning. Others perhaps take a little more time to warm up."

Related: Why was PEMRA up in arms about Dar's interview broadcast on Pakistani channels?

However, Sackur stressed on journalistic ethics as well, stating how interviewers "have to ensure that they maintain respect and courtesy and I'm always keen to do that".

He said he did not think of interviews as "a boxing match where I have to land some sort of knockout blow on the opponent" but that he only wished to coax information out of them for the benefit of HARDtalk's viewers. 

"I want to elicit information. I want to enlighten our viewers. And that's the spirit in which I do the show. To me, it's about respect as much as anything," he stated.

Also read: What did Prime Minister Imran Khan have to say about Ishaq Dar's interview?

Sackur explained that he made sure the guests were respected on the show as "they're public figures who are important in the societies in which they live and work". Through "decent research" and "real preparation", the anchor made sure he was well-informed and able to maintain his ethics.

Sackur also underlined that his audience looked for "an intelligent conversation" and did not "want the interview to be — as I just put it earlier — some sort of boxing match where aggression and rudeness are used as devices".

"It's not — certainly not — about me and me trying to make any sort of personal points or invest(ing) myself personally in any sort of combat with the guest."


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