A video uploaded on YouTube on Thursday sent shockwaves in the media world as conversations between TV anchors Meher Bokhari, Mubashir Lucman and real estate tycoon Malik Riaz appeared to be completely scripted.
The video, titled ‘Malik Riaz Planted Interview with Mehar Bukhari and Mubashir Lukman on Dunya’ was uploaded by a user named ‘investigativereporter’, showed off-the-record conversations between the hosts and the real estate tycoon during a two-hour exclusive show.
The behind-the-scenes video includes dozens of sound bites that would implicate the anchors of scripting the entire show to please the influential businessman.
One of the most incriminating statements during the show was one made by Meher Bokhari.
“Say what you want … what question we should ask. It will appear as though it is planted … it is, but it shouldn’t appear it is,” said Bokhari.
Both anchors are also instructed against interrupting Riaz during the interview. Bokhari refers to instructions from someone named ‘Mian sb’ in the early parts of the show and later also speaks to Naveed Kashif, the chief operating officer of the organisation, over the phone.
“Naveed Kashif said don’t interrupt in between when Malik Riaz is speaking,” said Bokhari after her phone conversation with Kashif. It was the first time Riaz was appearing on a talk show after his alleged links with Dr Arsalan Iftikhar, the son of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, surfaced.
Interestingly, tension could be detected between the two hosts during the off-the-record footage. At one point, Lucman even tells Bokhari to ‘take it easy’, to which Bokhari responds saying “I have not spoken in the last 10 minutes.”
The argument gets heated later on when Bokhari calls Lucman ‘childish’ and accuses him of not giving her airtime to ask questions. Lucman briefly walks out of the show, only to return to reveal more incriminating information.
When he returns to the set, the show is already on air, something that Lucman does not realise.
“I will say this live that Mian Aamir and you pressurised me to do this show,” said Lucman upon returning to his seat.
Faced with an embarrassing situation, Bokhari takes a break. Riaz is then seen pleading with the two anchors to stop the fighting. “Please don’t ruin my program … my whole life is at stake,” said Riaz.
Other highlights of the video include a call received by Lucman from Abdul Qadir Gilani, the son of the Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, and he hands the phone to Malik Riaz to discuss the ‘content’ of the show.
The talk show’s producer, Nadia Khaliq, claims that the video which is almost 28 minutes long has been edited out to malign Bokhari.
“This is definitely done by one of our colleagues. The way it has been edited to show Meher was asking the planted questions, it seems maybe Mubashir is behind it,’ said Khaliq.
“This is an understood thing. It is not all extempore,” Khaliq added. According to sources at the head office of Duniya television channel, which is owned by former mayor of Lahore, Mian Aamir, disciplinary action was taken against Lucman after the show, and he has been suspended for saying things against the CEO on air.
Both Bukhari and Lucman were unavailable for comments.
However, late on Thursday, Bokhari attempted to clarify her position during her talk show, emphasising that it was normal to do what she did, adding that if any anchor who said differently, was lying.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 15th, 2012.