Small talk invariably becomes an interesting controversy.
Aday after he was selected as Director General of Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), Zaheer-ul Islam found himself at the centre of a strange hullabaloo. Hullabaloo it was for controversy is too strong a word for what should have been no more than small talk.
All too familiar with the Indian obsession with the ISI, a Pakistani defence analyst Ikram Sehgal chose to tell an Indian publication that there was a tenuous link between Lt. Gen. Islam and Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan. Within hours, the mid-afternoon bulletin on Pakistan's leading Urdu channel was interrupted to flash this breaking news! The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) denied the relationship soon enough but this had already become the talk of the town.
Sehgal's claim is that Lt. Gen Islam is the nephew of Indian National Army hero Shah Nawaz Khan who had adopted Lateef Fatima, Shah Rukh Khan's mother. While many a Pakistani wondered what the fuss was all about because cross-border relationships are commonplace, the denial drew its share of raised eyebrows with some seeing it as indicative of the establishment's perennial effort to disassociate the nation from all things Indian and identify itself more with the Arab world.
Curiously enough, this round of selection for the coveted post in the most feared institution of Pakistan had a fair share of “filmi” angle. When speculations were rife about the probables for the post, one name that came up was that of Isfandayar Ali Khan Pataudi, a Deputy Director General in the ISI, who is the uncle of Bollywood idol Saif Ali Khan.