Why Reham Khan Had to Lie on Her Resume?

Clip_24When I disclosed in January that cricket legend Imran Khan had secretly married former BBC presenter Reham Khan, his ex-wife Jemima Goldsmith seemed less than thrilled and publicly thanked Pakistanis who contacted her to say she remained their favourite First Lady.

Now questions are starting to be asked about the CV of TV journalist Reham, 42, who left Britain for Pakistan two years ago. Reham’s personal website states that she won her post as a reporter on the BBC regional show South Today after starting a postgraduate course ‘in Broadcast Journalism at North Lindsay [sic] College’, in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire.

However, according to officials at North Lindsey, it has never offered such a course.

Indeed, it does not teach journalism at all. Furthermore, they can find no record of anyone bearing Khan’s name or age ever having enrolled.

Questions are starting to be asked about Reham’s CV. She is pictured with her husband

‘We do not have anyone by those names or date of birth having attended this college,’ says a spokesman. ‘We have never done a degree in broadcast journalism.’

Reham could not be reached for comment but it is not the first time that her past has been clouded in mystery.

In early 2015, she claimed in an interview with a Pakistani journalist that she was a victim of domestic violence during her first marriage, to 54-year-old NHS psychiatrist Dr Ijaz Rehman.

However, this was angrily denied by the doctor, who told me: ‘I reject these allegations strongly.

‘I have never lifted hands on anyone. Domestic violence is a very serious offence.

‘I work in a very senior position in the NHS and if I was convicted or charged or found involved in domestic violence, in any sense, I wouldn’t have been able to practise.’

Clip_39Imran, 62, who is now a leading politician in Pakistan, has two sons from his nine-year marriage to Jemima, 41, and a daughter from a previous relationship with the late heiress Sita White. Reham has three children from her previous marriage.

Clip_30She married Imran in a simple ceremony in Islamabad after a whirlwind romance and their wedding was reported to have been met with opposition from some members of his family.
Reham was subjected to insults after photos of her in ‘revealing’ clothes and a video of her dancing the tango were posted on the internet in the conservative Islamic country.

Surprises That Greet A Pakistani in India

By Tahir Mehdi

When you cross the Wagha Border, you are struck by so many similarities in the two countries that you may need Google map to confirm your current location.

However, India holds many surprises for a Pakistani visitor as well.

Here are the six that I couldn’t resist sharing:

Eat, Sip and Travel

Train travel for a Pakistani of my age is a precious childhood memory – the anxiety of being on time, as it never awaited for anyone (not even a VIP), siblings jostling for a window seat, snack vendors popping up every other moment, the coolies, uniformed ticket checkers, the signals and the crossings. All of this had existed as a fascinating sub-culture.

The behemoth shuttled past vast plains, snaked through mysterious mountains and jumped over mighty rivers, as astounded passengers, like me, gazed at the fast changing scenes. The best moment was when it used to stay put for some time (for truly technical reasons) in the midst of a strange place; a jungle, a hamlet, suburbs.

But then it would hit a red signal that would never turn green. A majority of Pakistanis in the 20s had never had the pleasure of a train travel.

Clip_24The railway in India, however, is alive and kicking. It arrives and departs on time too. India has maintained well this technological wonder that we jointly inherited from the colonial period. It comes with its fair share of changes; some make you feel good and others nostalgic.

Clip_30I eagerly waited for the chana chaat wala but was instead visited by a waiter every 20 minutes or so. Each time, he handed me a tray load of things to eat, so much so that with a mouthful throughout the journey, I barely spoke to my companions. I missed all those colorful characters from my childhood, now replaced by packed food from a host of companies, diligently offloaded onto keen consumers.

The overwhelmingly generous, or should I say lavish, hosting by the railway comes in sharp contrast with the measly ways of private Indian airlines. They hand you a menu with a ‘sky price’ of each item and you feel guilty asking for even a glass of water for free!

My Indian friends joked that they expected the airlines to soon start charging passengers for toilet use, with a ‘price list’ hanging at the door. You can well imagine the ‘items’ it would include.

The Other Wheel

Clip_24The most startling difference you come across as soon as you enter India from Pakistan – women in public space.

They are everywhere, riding two wheelers, in buses and trains commuting independently and running businesses big and small, including roadside tea stalls and shops.

They come from all cultures and communities. I saw young girls cycling back home from school in a Ludhiana village. I saw two black burqa-clad women riding a scooty in Hyderabad. The most amusing, however, was to witness a grey choti (braid) dangling from behind a helmet as an old lady sped past me in Bangalore.

With cities teeming with people and roads perennially clogged, the swift motorcycle is the vehicle of choice for millions, just as it is in Pakistan. But it is not a taboo for women to ride a bike in India.

In Ahmedabad, some of my friends decided to gather at one point and then go for a round of the city together. Everyone, however, had an errand to attend to on the way. The host took great pains in developing a please-all route and in accordance, divided the group among the available vehicles.

Clip_30When I finally packed myself into a car, I reminded the host, sitting next to me, that bhabhi (his wife) was missing. “No, I gave her my bike. She has to pick up our child from school before she can rejoin us.” I was flabbergasted.

Clip_31“That simple,” I murmured. Luckily no one noticed.

So please, when there, don’t stare at a young lady in jeans on a motorcycle, checking her newsfeed on a smartphone, while awaiting the green signal. It’s normal there.

Guess What’s for Dinner Tonight?

Clip_34This one could be a little more than a surprise – a shock for many Pakistanis, in fact.

I signed a declaration as part of the entry process on the Indian side of the Wagha Border to state that I was not carrying any contraband items like drugs or weapons, etc. That’s commonplace but the check list also included ‘beef and beef products’. I was worried about what I had eaten for breakfast that morning, lest they make me walk through some special scanner.

The surprise kept springing up in intriguing ways throughout my stay.

There are restaurants that are exclusively vegetarian and there are those that serve non-veg as well but then, many firm believers do not like to eat veg meals from the kitchen that processes meat as well. So, they will not go to a place that serves non-veg. At many places, rows of veg and non-veg restaurants are clustered in separate streets.

Clip_37This ‘culinary partition’ is then extended to housing as well, as vegetarian landlords do not rent their properties to meat-eaters that include Muslims, Christians, Bengali Hindus and people of Scheduled Caste Dalit communities.

Non-believers, however, can try to sneak past these stringent tests if their family names are kosher. Vegetarian colonies and apartments, however, closely watch against a non-veg taking residence there. So, entire neighborhoods can be identified with what they prefer to have for dinner.

In addition to meat, Jains abstain from eating garlic and onions as well. So there are separate Jain markets and colonies.

For most Pakistanis, eating out means nothing but neat-meat-big-portions. But it is impossible for a Pakistani to digest the socio-political dimensions of their seemingly banal love for the boti.

Take for example, if a Dalit (lower caste) rights activist, from among a large group dinning together, orders a beef tikka, would you suspect him of being a ‘revolutionary’? He might actually think he is making a statement against the Brahmin hegemony – the Hindu upper caste, the staunchest believer of the beef ban.

But the good news is that there are more ‘bad Hindus’ in India than there are ‘bad Muslims’ in Pakistan. You will have company.

Knowing the meat fetish of Pakistani middle-class, I can foresee a long line of tikka and karahijoints on this side of the Wahga Border post with ‘welcome back home’ signs, as and when the visa restrictions ease.

Now You See It, Now You Don’t

Clip_40Besides the super active railways in India, there are many public transport options available for intra-city commuting, including the all too familiar rickshaws, mostly known here by their first name ‘auto’.

They indeed spew smoke but the surprise is that they have a fare meter.

You can rely on these and do not need to consult friends regarding a fair charge from one point to the other. Some meters may not be calibrated to the new rates fixed by the government; in that case the auto wala will show you a chart comparing what appears on the meter to what is actually due.

You can note other signs of ‘the writ of the state’ in cities that we in Pakistan, have altogether forgotten.

I took a picture of a roadside book stall and its owner came to me quite worried. On my inquiry, it did not turn out to be a privacy concern, instead he was afraid of being reported for selling pirated books.

Sahab, frankly I do have some pirated editions,” the poor man begged. A sharp contrast to the brazen ways of copyrights violators that I witness, and benefit from, in my country.

Some of my Indian friends insisted ‘sab chalta hey’ and these acts qualify as mere posturing by the state. It may be so, but coming from a country where the state has withdrawn from even a symbolic existence in so many spheres, it was still a surprise.

Three Is Crowd, But How Many Is A Mela?
Clip_42I was born and grew up in Punjab, Pakistan, and by the time I entered my 20s, I had known only Urdu and Punjabi speakers and a few Pakhtuns. I ‘saw’ (and later befriended) a Sindhi for the first time when I joined a federal college.

The metropolitan culture in Pakistan is way too shallow.

India, by that count, is an ocean, possessing endless diversity in its every span.

You can meet a Kannadiga in Ludhiana, a Manipuri in Hyderabad and a Bihari in Bangalore. There are scores of different languages and dialects, cultures and sub-cultures, religions and sects, castes and sub-castes and, of course, classes.

The permutations and combinations of all these factors are just mind boggling.

A Goan Christian married to a Hindu from Odisha and living in Ahmedabad, while working in a company owned by a Bohri Muslim from Kachh, Gujrat! Can you tell what identity markers this family chooses for itself?

The ‘ocean’ is not calm at all points and at all times. It is understandable that the countless fissures lead to frictions that keep flaring up every now and then. Hegemony of social, economic and political orders play with this fire and they are good at making a tamahsa out of it, of course, a profitable one.

I am here not commenting on whether or not India is dealing with its diversity well. I am simply stating an admiration to the amazing tapestry that India is.

It takes a Pakistani some effort to come to terms with this amazing juxtaposition of human beings. It feels great to speak Punjabi with someone in Bangalore, with no intentions of hiding it.

New World Order

Clip_44I ignored this one when I encountered it for the first time but then I gradually realised the pattern to it.

If someone introduces himself as say, Jai Parkash, an average Pakistani’s next obvious inquiry will be, “Are you a Pakistani?” But this will not happen in India, even if your name is Tahir Mehdi.

No one can know your nationality unless you make it known yourself.

They can’t guess it from the language that you speak and they won’t doubt it when you discuss Indo-Pak relations.

This unintentional anonymity can lead to interesting situations.

An auto rickshaw wala was proud that India had beaten the hell out of Pakistan in all the wars that we had fought. We were passing by a cricket stadium where the two countries had played a match. He, however, was critical of Indian players for losing the Asia Cup 2014 to Shahid Afridi’s last over blitz.

Such responses to Indo-Pak relations are no surprise as they follow known positions of either the doves or the hawks.

The surprise, however, comes when they discover they’ve been talking to a Pakistani. Stances are softened, positions nuteralised. And feel good statements are uttered, ‘After all, we are brothers’.

But many take it to the next exquisite level:

You know what? Please, come closer. It is a conspiracy of the world powers, the US, of course. It’s a part of the new world order. They plot to make us fight each other. They are afraid that if India and Pakistan joined hands, they would not be able to stop us from ruling over the entire world!

Indian Muslims `Go Home’

Clip_31Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s (VHP) president Pravin Togadia sent temperatures soaring in Bhavnagar in Rajkot with a hate speech that targeted Muslims for buying properties in Hindu areas.

At night, Togadia joined a group of VHP and Bajrang Dal members on a street protest outside a house purchased by a Muslim businessman near Meghani Circle. While saffron groups have been regularly organizing ‘Ram Dhuns’ and ‘Ram Darbars’ to thwart such deals, Togadia went a step further by asking the protesters to take complete control of the house and put a ‘Bajrang Dal’ board on it.

Togadia told the gathering that there were two ways to stop such deals. One is to pressurize the state government to bring in Disturbed Areas Act in Bhavnagar, which prevents inter-community sale of immovable property. The second is to take forcible possession of the house and fight a legal battle later which will go on for years.

He gave the Muslim occupant 48 hours to vacate the house. “If he does not relent, go with stones, tyres and tomatoes to his office. There is nothing wrong in it. Killers of Rajiv Gandhi have not been hanged … there is nothing to fear and the case will go on,” Togadia told the charged-up gathering.

“I have done it in the past and Muslims have lost both property and money,” he said.

He also said that this election is the best time to pressurize political parties to ensure safety of Hindus. “Don’t be reluctant to pressurize Congress or BJP for the sake of Hindus’ safety,” he said.

After the event was over, tension was palpable and police feared that the mob might attack the house. A team of policemen has been stationed outside the house to avert any trouble.

Who Will Help Junaid Hafeez to Get Released?

Clip_20“I used to feel my life was too straight, too linear.”

The speaker was Junaid Hafeez, a young poet and Fulbright scholar from the south of Pakistan, telling a radio show host in 2011 why he had given up studying medicine for a life in literature. Today, he is in jail on a blasphemy charge that carries the death penalty, and is mourning the lawyer, Rashid Rehman, who was murdered in early May 2014 for defending him.

Before his arrest, Hafeez was teaching in the English Department at Bahauddin Zakariya University in Multan, a city in Punjab Province close to where he grew up. His personal charisma and liberal views had won him a following among students, as well as the envious attention of faculty members.

One day in 2013, a student affiliated with Islami Jamiat Talaba, a wing of the hard-line Jamaat-i-Islami party, accused Hafeez of insulting the Prophet Muhammad on Facebook. The student had no evidence, but no evidence was needed.

Hard-line students soon held a protest crying out for Hafeez’s execution. University administrators backed away. The police registered a case for blasphemy against Hafeez. They did not ask cybercrime specialists to investigate the accusation, relying instead on a fatwa issued by a seminary.

For months Hafeez’s father tried to find a lawyer. Finally he petitioned Rashid Rehman, the 53-year-old special coordinator for the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in Multan. A legal expert with 20 years of activism, Rehman was known as a go-to lawyer for hopeless causes. Despite the danger, he agreed to take Hafeez’s case. Defending a man accused of blasphemy, Rehman told a reporter in April, was like “walking into the jaws of death.”

Those jaws have been open wide since the 1980s, when the military dictator Gen. Muhammad Zia ul-Haq updated a set of colonial laws that criminalized “insulting the religion of any class of persons.” The original laws were devised in the late 19th century by a paternalistic British government trying to keep its multifaith subjects from fighting one another. Those laws were worded generally, and prescribed fines and, at most, two-year prison terms.

General Zia’s amendments particularized the insults and tailored the provisions to favor a stringent Sunni strain of Islam. They criminalized the desecration of the Quran, any defiling of the name of the Prophet Muhammad, and disrespectful remarks about his companions — a jab at Pakistan’s Shiite minorities, who dispute the outcome of the succession struggle that followed the Prophet’s death. Moreover, any attempt by members of the outlawed Ahmadi sect to refer to themselves as Muslims was criminalized. Punishments were upgraded: Blasphemers could be executed or jailed for life.

General Zia died in an air crash in 1988, but his legacy remains. It includes the empowerment of theological figures in every stratum of life — from clerics and televangelists to fanatical academics and Shariah judges — all aided in their righteous endeavors by a legislature that remains intractably Zia-ist.

The blasphemy laws are part of this package. For decades they had been rarely used, with only a handful of cases before the mid-1980s. But General Zia’s amendments opened the floodgates: More than a thousand cases have been reported since then, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Just last week the Punjabi police, prompted by a Sunni extremist, brought blasphemy charges against 68 lawyers.

The blasphemy laws can serve just about anyone with a dark design — an angry relative, an envious colleague, a neighbor with his eye on your property. But the greatest beneficiary has been the professional Islamists, who specialize in their application to encroach on both state and society.

I got a sense of this in August 2009 when I visited the torched Christian neighborhood of Gojra, a small city in the heart of Pakistan. A Muslim peasant had spread a rumor that Christian neighbors had desecrated a Quran, and it degenerated into a riot after clerics riled up Muslims with hysterical broadcasts from the loudspeakers of mosques. When the police tried to stop the mullahs, they quoted the blasphemy laws and threatened to turn the mob against the authorities for “protecting the blasphemers.” Some 60 Christian houses were set on fire and eight Christians killed.

The Islamists would have us think that all believers are susceptible to spontaneous eruptions of violence when their religion is offended. But the reality, as documented by a government report on the Gojra incident, is more treacherous and tragic. A blasphemy charge, once taken up by a religious activist, can legitimate myriad other interests, from petty personal needs to large political plans, and create an exhilarating free-for-all atmosphere. The Gojra rioters included the constituents of the local opposition politician, peasants and day-laborers from neighboring areas who joined in the looting and armed members of the now-banned Sunni militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

Pakistan’s Islamist groups have little incentive to reform the blasphemy laws. They have even expanded the understanding of blasphemy so that it now includes any criticism of the laws themselves. This has been achieved by targeting high-profile dissenters, like Salmaan Taseer, a governor of Punjab province, and Shahbaz Bhatti, a federal minister for minorities, who were both assassinated in 2011.

And then, just two weeks ago, there was the murder of Rashid Rehman.

They closed in on him as mafias do, from all sides. First there were encoded warnings in Urdu newspapers, describing a lawyer who was out to “hurt himself.” Then there was a press conference in Multan at which a group of stern-faced clerics accused Rehman of trying to make an international issue of the Hafeez case. In April, during Hafeez’s trial, three lawyers for the prosecution told Rehman in front of the judge that by the next hearing he “would not exist.”

Rehman’s colleagues at the human rights commission urged the government to provide him with security. They got no help. The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party has a history of placating extremist groups, like the Pakistani Taliban, to gain political mileage.

On the night of May 7, two young men walked into Rehman’s office near the district courts in Multan, shot him dead in front of his colleagues, and fled into the night. The next morning, almost every newspaper in Pakistan described them as “unidentified individuals.” But what killed Rehman can be identified: It was violent zealotry, aided and abetted by the state.

Ali Sethi is the author of “The Wish Maker,” a novel.

Saudi Prince Talal Goes to Israel on a Seven Day Trip

image003The Saudi multi-millionaire media tycoon, prince Talal Bin Waleed, has urged all Arab nations to give up their acrimonious stance toward the Jewish nation and instead continue to strive for a more peaceful , prosperous and homogenous Middle-East.

The controversial Saudi prince Talal has openly declared his intention to embark a seven-day pilgrimage to Holy Land and pray in Al-Aqsa Mosque — the third holiest site in Islam located in the Old City of Jerusalem. sometime in 2015.

“All my Muslim brothers and sisters must understand that it became a moral imperative for all inhabitants of war-torn Middle-East, namely Arabs, to desist their absurd hostility toward Jewish people. My sovereign, King Salman has instructed me to open a direct dialogue with Israel’s intellectual building amicable ties with our Israeli neighbors,” Okaz quoted the Saudi prince who lives in one of London’s affluent suburbs.

I was always candid regarding the utmost necessity of quelling the growing waves of anti-Semitism in our volatile region , added Prince Talal, and I shall remain lavish in my praise to Israel as the sole democratic entity in one the most tyrannical parts in the entire world.

Saying that his voyage might be the harbinger of peace and fraternity, the Saudi Prince emphasized on developing the nascent military and intelligence co-operation with Tel Aviv.

PMDC Stops 17 Medical Colleges from Admitting Students

Clip_66The muck at the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC), instead of getting cleared is increasing. The Nawaz Sharif government is clueless, and the Health Minister who is daughter in law of a former hand-picked president Rafiq Tarrar, is proving to be a failure in handling the mafia in the PMDC.

Recently, the PMDC has stopped 17 public and private sector medical colleges from admitting students for the 2015-16 session for being critically deficient in faculty and other facilities.

Besides, the PMDC has recommended to the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination to order closure of four of the colleges for constantly violating rules and regulations.

The PMDC decision has sent a shockwave among students and the administration of colleges as the admission process is to start in coming weeks.

The closure of four institutions will put the future of hundreds of students at stake.

Eight of the 17 colleges are in Punjab, four each in public and private sectors.

Test for admission to government-run medical and dental colleges in Punjab has been scheduled on August 30, 2015.

The PMDC has advised parents and students to confirm the status of medical colleges before seeking admission to them.

In a letter sent to the Health Services Ministry on June 25, the PMDC has listed the colleges which have been stopped from holding the admission process. They are:

  • Sahiwal Medical College,
  • Dera Ghazi Khan Medical College,
  • Abbottabad International Medical College,
  • Abbottabad Women Medical College,
  • Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan Medical College, Lahore;
  • Shaikh Zayed Medical College, Rahim Yar Khan;
  • Rashid Latif Medical College, Lahore;
  • Pak Red Crescent Medical and Dental College, Lahore;
  • University College of Medicine and Dentistry, Lahore;
  • Hashmat Medical and Dental College, Gujrat;
  • Al-Razi Medical College, Peshawar;
  • Mohammad Bin Qasim Dental and Medical College, Karachi;
  • Federal Medical and Dental College, Islamabad;
  • Pak International Medical College, Peshawar;
  • Indus Medical College, Tando Mohammad Khan (Sindh);
  • Islamic International Medical College, Rawalpindi; and
  • Department of Dentistry, Bacha Khan Medical College, Mardan.

The medical and dental colleges whose closure has been recommended are:

Pak Red Crescent Medical and Dental College, Lahore;

Hashmat Medical and Dental College, Gujrat; Al-Razi Medical College, Peshawar; and

Sahiwal Medical College.

The Council has said that the Dera Ghazi Khan Medical College and the Department of Dentistry, Bacha Khan Medical College, Mardan, were functioning without recognition, a violation of rules and regulations.

In separate letters to the provincial health departments and the vice-chancellors and principals concerned, the PMDC has urged them to ensure implementation of its decision.

It is being said that the permission to these Colleges was granted by the previous PMDC management and the new one led by Dr Asim who was Asif Zardari’s petroleum minister and helped him make some commission while there is now extensively meddling in the PMDC affairs.

The Maldives Cancel Indian Contractor’s Contract to Build Male Airport

Clip_244After a tense change of power, a massive contract for an airport in Maldives nation, has become a political and diplomatic football. The contract to modernise the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport in Male, won by Indian infrastructure firm GMR, has led to frayed diplomatic relations between India and Maldives.

The cost of the project is $500 million. The build-operate-transfer contract would translate into the Maldives government receiving $1 billion over 25 years. For a country with a GDP of a little over $2 billion, this is clearly a project that can make or break governments. On the surface, the controversy is about the conditions under which the contract was given out, during the regime of former president Mohammed Nasheed. The present government is accusing the former government of twisting local rules to grant the contract to GMR.

The administration has raised questions and doubts about the authenticity of the conditions under which the contract was signed. There are allegations of money having changed hands. Of course, the players involved deny this. But it doesn’t help matters that GMR has of late been getting some poor press in India. Most recently, the CAG has castigated the GMR-led DIAL for anomalies in developing the T3 terminal of Delhi airport. Earlier, there were issues with GMR’s Hyderabad airport project.

While there has been no official communication from the Maldives government to the GMR group regarding a rethink on the airport contract, there are reports that political parties are also raising questions about the contract for a strategic asset being given to an “outsider”. That’s potentially bad news for GMR, because even if the contract conditions are positive and secure for the company, the government can, at any time, scrap a contract in the “national interest”. Of the $500 million, GMR has already put in $240 million in the project and paid $130 million to the government.

GMR said that since the bidding process was monitored by international authorities—the World Bank group’s International Finance Corporation (IFC)—there should be no doubt about its authenticity. Says Siddharth Kapur, GMR’s CFO (airports), “The whole process was handled by IFC and the contract was given in a transparent manner. Why is this being raked up one-and-a-half years later, when no one, not even the other bidders or members of the government,  had objections to the process before?”

103-0341_IMGThe other contentious issue is that of the $25 airport development fee (ADF), which GMR insists was built into the contract. Says Kapur, “The concession agreement provides for charging of ADF on departing international passengers. This is a sovereign commitment under the concession terms. The Maldives government needs to get their requisite approvals in place to honour their commitment.” GMR sources say that since an amendment in laws was required to allow the ADF, the former Nasheed government had written to GMR, stating that the ADF amount should be adjusted from the revenue share. However, this was discontinued when the government changed and the Waheed regime took over.

There is increased play by different political groups who want to prove they are “saving” the airport, a precious asset. Raking up an anti-India sentiment is also on the agenda of many politicians. This was apparent when the Maldives president’s spokesperson called Dnyaneshwar Mulay, India’s envoy to the Maldives, a “traitor” and “an enemy of Maldives”, before the government launched a huge fire-fighting exercise to save face.

The ruling party does not have strength and needs to create a constituency by creating such sentiments and issues. And the GMR case fits into the issue of the Maldives’ sovereignty. As no Maldives political outfit would want to antagonise India—which regularly extends a monetary line to the country—larger issues like security and national interest are being constantly raised.

Then there is the China question. Many pro-India politicians are also raising the China bogey, saying that the entire hullabaloo about GMR is basically to ease the Indian company out of the project and bring the Chinese in. A senior member of the Waheed government said on condition of anonymity, “This whole hype about GMR and the anti-India sentiments is done by some in the government who are seeking Chinese favours….The Chinese are keen on competing with India in this part…. They have plans to get the southernmost Gan International airport in Addu too. There is one more airport only a couple of miles from India’s Lakshwadeep borders. China is looking at that too.”

Recently, the Maldives government issued a prime plot of land close to the Indian High Commission in Male to China to build their embassy, a development not seen positively by India. China got the plot within a year of starting an embassy in Maldives. While this could be a serious strategic issue for India, political watchers say it is not unusual for Maldivian politicians to rake up the China issue to get the attention of Indian policymakers and Maldivian leaders. At election time, such games  pay off.

As of now though, the fate of GMR’s contract in Male hangs in doubt, with the government yet to take a decision on it. With election fever picking up in Male, the airport issue may decide who rules the country next year. If anti-India sentiments prevail, GMR could just be part of the collateral damage.

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