Amit Baruah was one of only two Indian journalists allowed to be based in Islamabad during three tumultuous years of Pakistan's history.
The author recounts with some amusement his family's experience of life in Islamabad society between April 1997 and June 2000-all of it conducted under the suspicious gaze of Pakistani Intelligence agents who shadow Baruah, his wife and daughters everywhere, including into friends' living rooms. He records his frustration at being disallowed from reporting freely on the ground many events that defined Indo-Pak relations, even as death or kidnapping forever stalk him.
Three incidents haunt Baruah the most; not being cleared to attend the funeral, in 1998, of John Joseph, the bishop of Faisalabad who committed suicide in protest against Pakistan's 'blasphemy' laws; being forbidden to view the wreckage of an Indian Air Force plane shot down during the Kargil conflict of 1999; and being prevented from entering Afghanistan from Pakistan to report on the Kandahar hijacking later that year.
And yet, says Baruah, despite all the personal and professional difficulties he faced in Pakistan, his stint in Islamabad-and his exchanges with so many friends he cannot name-proved to be the most exciting and enriching in his career.
While admitting the difficult nature of his job as a foreign correspondent in a hostile nation, Baruah recalls the joy of meeting generous, like-minded people in a country whose regimented stance on India-and its press-is less than friendly.
About the Author:
Amit Baruah is The Hindu's Diplomatic Correspondent and Senior Assistant Editor. In his twenty-one years as a journalist, he has covered a wide range of issues, including Jammu & Kashmir, the conflict in Punjab and matters of internal security.
Baruah worked as the newspaper's Special Correspondent in Colombo (1995-1997), Islamabad (1997-2000) and South-East Asia/ Pacific Correspondent based in Singapore (2000-02).
In 2000, Baruah was awarded the Prem Bhatia Award for excellence in journalism. The citation for the award read: 'He has shown courage and objectivity during his assignment in Pakistan; and his coverage of such major events as Kargil, the Indian Airlines hijacking to Kandahar and the Musharraf coup was regarded as outstanding.'
In 2002, Amit Baruah returned to New Delhi where he lives with his wife and two children.
THIS IS A journalistic account of the events I reported from Islamabad between April 1997 and June 2000 for The Hindu and Frontline. It's an effort to show how difficult the job of a foreign correspondent is in a hostile nation.
In this, I have tried to be as honest and candid, but have held back personal details. There is a reason behind my reticence here. Naming names could impact negatively on my many friends and acquaintances still living and working in Pakistan.
This book could not have been written without the insights of my Pakistani friends. Of course, the impressions of life in Islamabad are all my own, but I was benefited enormously by my conversations and interactions with so many Pakistanis.
My friends in the Indian High Commission in Islamabad were invaluable to our existence in Pakistan-both at the personal and professional levels. But again, I prefer that they remain anonymous.
This account is, I believe, the first that provides an insight into an Indian reporter's many personal struggles in Pakistan. Despite all the personal and professional difficulties that one faced, my Pakistan assignment was both exciting and enriching.
Having spent a total of eighteen years working with The Hindu, what I am today has largely been shaped by that newspaper. I am grateful to The Hindu's Editor-in-Chief N. Ram, who pioneered investigative journalism in India, for permission to write this book.
I would like to thank The Hindu's Editor N. Ravi and then Executive Editor Malini Parthasarthy for posting me in Pakistan. My interest in that country was kindled for the first time in December 1989 when The Hindu's then Editor G. Kasturi sent me to Srinagar on a reporting assignment.
I'm also grateful to Nandini Mehta (earlier with Penguin and now Features Editor in Outlook magazine) for believing that the book was a good idea and going through the manuscript with a toothcomb. Prita Maitra of Penguin, who took over from Nandini, was both diligent and full of encouragement.
This book could not have been written without the unstinted support of my wife, Minu, who bore life in Pakistan with a grin. My daughters Anushka, and Antara, born in Islamabad, made for wonderful distractions.
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