The beleaguered Blair government in Britain has resorted to a time-honoured technique to blur the outrage over the David Kelly affair. The row over BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan and his stories about "sexing up" an Iraq arms dossier has been referred to a judicial inquiry headed by Lord Hutton. And, crucially, it's summertime. Brits are bored with politics and media infighting. They're heading for the beach. When they come back, unfortunately, this episode will be distant history. Kaput. Displaced by the latest barney over Blair's new limousine or yet another television presenter nicked for paedophilia. Whatever. But it shouldn't be. Much about the situation remains deeply troubling. For Blair. For Britain and, of course, for my alma mater, the BBC
Journalism is often a tightrope. It is largely a matter of fossicking through the claims, counter-claims, blatant attempts to mislead and other clumps of filth in our in-trays. Occasionally, something gleams pure gold but even then, it's best to be suspicious. As I found out in March of '93 as a somewhat damp-behind-the-ears South Asia correspondent in Pakistan, finding the glittery lump in the dirt can be a risky business.
By March of that year, it was clear that we were in for a wild ride in the Islamic republic. (Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's battles with President Ghulam Ishaq Khan made the Gilligan spat look like a love-in.) So I tuned in to Khan's Pakistan Day speech on March 23 with some interest. I don't remember the exact wording but in impeccable Urdu, the bureaucrat-president seemed to be dissing his prime minister. My Urdu at the time, ahem, was poor. So I made a few calls to what I now admit were interested parties. One being an isi agent who pretended to be a journalist, an old colleague of Khan's from the civil service. All gave me the line, yes, Khan was preparing to dump Sharif. I reported...