One of the greatest things about living in a city like London is experiencing cultures from all over the world. I feel privileged that I have friends from lots of different backgrounds but also from different places, some from countries I have never visited before and some from countries I will most likely never set foot in.
I also feel privileged that I can celebrate everything, as festive seasons are always around! What unites us is this big city are the places we go together, the restaurants we dine in and events we attend. What divides us can be politics and political agendas. And yes, sometimes conversations do get overheated and sometimes it takes weeks before we can sit down together again. The number-one rule at Ramadan, Rosh Hashanah, Diwali and Christmas is that we don’t talk about politics.
Saying that, our views on certain types of politicians are almost the same. There is one politician who we were all quite concerned about. Imran Khan, the former Pakistan prime minister and international cricket star, was pressed with nearly 150 charges against him, leading to national protests.
I had requested an interview with Imran Khan many times in the past. I have close friends who know him personally, who I can ask for favours. But I never got an answer to my requests until the end of June this year. I was so excited to interview the ex-prime minister of a nation of 240 million people.
The confirmation of the Imran Khan interview came on Saturday night, but I wasn’t well, I was really coming down with something – headache, illness, dizziness… I had a few hours to prepare, as the interview was scheduled for Sunday at noon. I stayed in bed until 11am, I couldn’t move, I took a third dose of paracetamol, when I realised my skin was covered in spots – I had an allergic reaction and the rash started coming up my neck.
It’s not good for a TV journalist to look unwell. From my perspective, journalists writing for papers get a better deal. They don’t have to comb their hair, they can write an article from their kitchen in their PJs, layers of make-up are not needed, plus they get an extra benefit – they can tell the whole story. For a TV journalist, everything is the opposite The story must usually be told in a minute and a half – if it is longer, they won’t broadcast it. You do the same amount of research, but you are extremely limited as to what information you can include in the story. You must also look neat and tidy as it’s on TV, and everyone will see you and judge you.
Sitting in front of my laptop, ready for my noon interview, I was feeling extremely unwell. The camera was set, the camera operator was in the room, everything was very quiet. Half past 12 and still no Imran Khan. Half an hour later and still nothing. I reached out to my friend who arranged the introduction for the interview and he got very worried and promised he would find out what was going on. Half an hour later I was still sitting quietly and waiting. Finally, information comes back from my friend that Imran Khan’s house, where he is in house arrest, had all its communications cut off and that no one in the house knows what is going on.
Did someone get information that I was interviewing him? It was supposed to be top secret. ‘Well, this situation is quite challenging’, I was thinking, when suddenly a WhatsApp message pinged in. We are waiting, we are ready, Imran Khan is ready… well, I was ready for at least three hours by that point! And not to mention that I was still dizzy and shivering.
The Zoom connection was established and on my screen was Imran Khan. Suddenly I didn’t feel ill anymore, and I started the interview straight away without any introduction. I jumped in with my first sentence: ‘I’m pressing record, Mr Khan.’ I knew this would be one of his last interviews before they took him to prison. As I write this blog, Imran Khan is still in prison, as are many of his colleagues and supporters. I hope they will be released soon.
- A conversation with former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, part 1
- A conversation with former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, part 2