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BBC’s Stephen Sackur says Ishaq Dar ‘seemed to enjoy’ being on HARDtalk

  • Sackur praises PML-N leader, saying Ishaq Dar was “a very direct speaker”
  • Says Dar “was happy to come in and give us the interview”
  • Terms talks “pretty intense”, adding Dar “also seemed to enjoy it”
  • Notes there “are various ways” to bring politicians back to questions asked of them

ISLAMABAD/LONDON: British journalist Stephen Sackur has revealed that PML-N leader Ishaq Dar “seemed to enjoy” being on BBC programme HARDtalk, which the former hosts.

Sackur — who was “delighted” to interview Dar — said Pakistan’s former finance minister himself “wanted to be on” the hard-hitting talk show. “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”.

“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.

“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.”

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.

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.

The BBC journalist 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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