AMARINDER’S PAK JOURNO FRIEND AROOSA ALAM IS A PIONEER INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, DFENCE AND DIPLOMATIC SCRIBE
Aroosa Alam, the Pakistanijournalist and advocate of India- Pakistan peace, whose “pure, beautiful friendship” with Amarinder Singh is now at the centre of a public slugfest between the former Punjab CM and his estranged colleagues in the Congress.
Over the years, both whenAmarinder was out of power for a decade and when he returned to power in 2007, Aroosa flew inand out ofPunjab. But she was largely left alone, both by media and politicians —whether it
was when she accompanied Amarinder for the launch of a biography(it was a chapter dedicated to her) at a hotel in Chandigarh in February 2017.
It’s a long time sinceAroosa first met Amarinder duringhis trip to Islamabad in 2005—she was then vice- president of the National Press Club
and a budding peacenik. A specialist in military and diplomatic affairs, she had reported two years earlier about a British diplomat’s dalliance with a woman staffer inPakistan Observer.
The high point ofher journalismcareer had been a series of 22 investigative reports in The Muslim on Pakistan’s Agosta 90B submarine deals with Francethat led to arrest of thenNaval chief Mansurul Haq in 1997.
Himselfa militaryhistorian, Amarinder took great pride inintroducingAroosa asa defence journalist, who had done a course in strategic studies from the National Defense University in Islamabad.
Aroosa’s brush with military affairs began much earlier. Her mother Akleen Akhtar was famously called “General Rani” because of her
proximity to Pakistani dictator General Yahya Khan. Akleen the feisty daughter ofa landlord inGujarat (a city in Pakistan’s Punjab) was married off to a police officer twice her age, and bore him six children). The rebellious Akleen is known to havewalked out onher husband while on a vocation at Muree, a hil station, near Rawalpindi.
An article in May 2002 issue of Newsline (a monthly English magazine in Pakistan that stopped publication in2019 referred to Akleenas “easily most influential figure during Pakistan’s military regime” who “with the slightest gesture of her bejeweled hand could guarantee employment, ensure promotions and bring about unwelcome transfers”.
That was the time whenAroosa was also coming to age; married to a Pakistan Foreign Service officer EjazAlam in the early 1970s. She gave birth to her son, Fakhr-e-Alam, in January 1976.
By that time, her mother had fallen on bad times. Soon after coming to power, President ZA Bhutto had put Akleen under house arrest in 1972. She was released only when Genera Zia-ul-Haq toppled the Bhutto regime in July 1977.
In her earlier conversation, Aroosa spoke about how she began her career in journalism in mid 1980s, starting with reporting on society, before movingon to cover diplomatic affairs for PakistanObserver in1986.
In 1988, she joined the Muslim as a defence reporter and in 1997 went on to become the paper’s—and the region’s—first woman chief reporter. She rejoined Pakistan’s Observer in 2000 and in 2000 beganworking as foreign correspondent for Japanese agency Kyodo. By the time Amarinder came visiting in2005, she had donned the role of a peacenik—she has beenpresident of South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA)—and would often speak fondly about her visits to India. Aroosa also spoke fondly about her two sons, the younger a barrister and elder a top TV anchor and producer.