Chandigarh: Former Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh has responded to the state government ordering a probe against his close friend, Pakistani journalist Aroosa Alam, saying she has been coming to India for 16 years following due process.
On Wednesday, Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa issued a statement that the state DGP will probe Aroosa’s “possible connections to the ISI”.
Amarinder replied through a flurry of tweets, put out by his media advisor Raveen Thukral Friday, saying that when Randhawa was a minister in his cabinet, he had never complained about Aroosa.
“She had been coming for 16 years with due Government of India clearances. Or are you alleging that both the NDA and the Congress-led UPA governments in this period connived with Pak ISI?” Amarinder said, adding that Randhawa was resorting to “personal attacks”.
Amarinder also took a dig at Randhawa, who holds the home portfolio, saying he was “worried” that instead of focusing on law and order at a time when terror threat is high and festivals are around the corner, he had put the DGP on a baseless investigation.
He also asked Randhawa what results he had to show for “the tall promises” he had made with regards to desecration and drug cases.
He also tweeted an undated picture of Aroosa with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and tagged Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, deputy CM Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, and the Congress party.
— Raveen Thukral (@RT_Media_Capt) October 22, 2021
The deputy chief minister hit back late Friday, wondering why Amarinder was so “perturbed over the probe on Aroosa and ISI links”. “Who sponsored her visa and everything concerning her will be thoroughly probed. I do hope everyone concerned will co-operate with police,” he tweeted.
He also responded to Amarinder’s charges against him in a flurry of tweets, including taking a dig at the former CM, saying that he need not worry about the law and order situation in Punjab. “Police is protecting people, not chikkus and seetafal,” he tweeted referring to a video that had gone viral early this year, in which Aroosa is seen talking to Amarinder about the two fruits being grown in the latter’s farmhouse.
(1/4) I am a true nationalist and you better know @capt_amarinder from which point our differences had erupted.Whereas,you don’t worry about law and order situation as we have not outsourced the Punjab govt to 'anyone'. Now, police is protecting people, not cheekus and seetafal.
— Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa (@Sukhjinder_INC) October 22, 2021
Amarinder replied to Randhawa’s tweets with another set of tweets late Friday, saying that all visa requests made for Aroosa were cleared by RAW and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) before approval. He said that an inquiry had already been held in 2007 before Aroosa was granted a visa.
‘Perturbed? Have you ever seen me perturbed on any issue in all these years @Sukhjinder_INC? In fact, you seem to be perturbed and confused, if your flip flops are any indication. Why don’t you make up your mind on this so-called probe against Aroosa Alam?’: @capt_amarinder 1/3 pic.twitter.com/8Gbuj5Zmyn
— Raveen Thukral (@RT_Media_Capt) October 22, 2021
The two leaders have history of rivalry. Randhawa was among the main Congress leaders to revolt against Amarinder. He had gathered almost three dozen MLAs, and asked for Amarinder’s removal as chief minister.
Talking to the media in Chandigarh Wednesday, Randhawa had said he had asked DGP Iqbalpreet Singh Sahota to investigate details of Aroosa Alam’s alleged connections with Pakistan’s ISI. He said that he and some other senior Congress leaders had been objecting to Aroosa living in the official residence of the chief minister for the past four-and-a-half years.
He also said that Amarinder was very worried about Pakistan fomenting trouble in Punjab, for which he had got the BSF jurisdiction extended in Punjab. “But what about the Pakistani who lives in his house?” he asked.
Aroosa and Amarinder
Aroosa is a very close friend of the former chief minister and the two know each other from when Amarinder first took over as chief minister (2002-07).
Aroosa was then president of the South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA), and had started visiting Punjab. Although there are reports of Amarinder meeting her in Islamabad in 2004 and asking her to visit Patiala, she was publicly seen with him a year later at a function in Jalandhar where he honoured her.
For the 10 long years that Amarinder remained out of power (2007-17), Aroosa was his constant companion. She made a dazzling appearance in Delhi in 2010 at the launch of Amarinder’s book, The Last Sunset. She again made a public appearance in 2012, and was seen with Amarinder at a similar gathering in Delhi.
A month before the 2017 assembly results were declared, she attended the launch of Amarinder’s biography, The People’s Maharaja.
“My relationship is a sensitive issue even back home. I am a Muslim woman and you know how people back home think,” she had told journalists present at the launch.
CM’s closest friend
When Amarinder returned to power in 2017, Aroosa was among the first VVIP guests to arrive at his swearing-in ceremony.
When in Chandigarh, she initially stayed in the CM’s “unofficial” residence, which used to be former deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal’s house, next door to the CM’s official residence. Later, however, when Amarinder shifted to his farmhouse in the outskirts of Chandigarh, she was his guest there.
During the four-and-a-half years of Amarinder being in power, Aroosa remained surrounded by Punjab civil servants, their wives and Amarinder’s coterie of MLAs, former MLAs and advisors.
Malvinder Singh Mali, an education activist who remained Navjot Sidhu’s advisor for a short duration, had in August questioned Amarinder’s relationship with Aroosa posting their pictures on his Facebook page.
Not a working journalist anymore, over the years, her visits to Chandigarh and trips to the hills had become commonplace and everyone had got used to her presence.
Who is Aroosa Alam?
Aroosa is the daughter of Akleen Akhtar, better known as Rani General, a close associate of Pakistan President General Yahya khan.
Akhtar wielded extraordinary power during his reign, calling the shots. Aroosa is one of her five children from her marriage with a police officer. Not much is known of Aroosa’s other siblings except that Adnan Sami, the singer from Pakistan, is her nephew — her maternal aunt’s grandson.
Aroosa has two sons. Her elder son Fakhr-e-Alam became famous early. Now a TV host, he started off as a Punjabi rap singer and actor. Her younger son is a barrister. Nothing is known about her husband, though.
Aroosa started working as a journalist in the 1980s and over the years specialised in military and defence affairs. She is credited with writing over 20 stories on the Agosta-90B submarine deals that finally led to the arrest of then Pakistan naval chief Mansurul Haq in 1997.
Her revelation about a British military attaché in Islamabad Brigadier Andrew Durcan who had been honey-trapped led to his recall. Aroosa was a member of President Pervez Musharraf’s entourage to the US, and was part of a team that visited Srinagar in 2005.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)