Will The REAL Christina Palmer Rise?
Friday, 30 April 2010.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan–Christina Palmer is an ace reporter for a small and feisty Islamabad-based Pakistani newspaper The Daily Mail. Her scoops on Indian army and intelligence have been rich in information and punch. Their accuracy has raised eyebrows in both Pakistan and India.
Last year, one of sent the Indian media and government into a tailspin.
That report left Indian Interior Minister P. Chidambaram “miffed”, according to one report, forcing Indian officials to consider lodging a protest with the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi. [The protest was never lodged.]
“The scurrilous report,” wrote India Today last year, “claimed the 178- strong first women contingent of the BSF had been inducted to meet the “natural needs” of male soldiers posted away from their families in Jammu and Kashmir (…) They even declared the BSF had borrowed the idea from Russians.”
So serious was the matter that India’s Border Security Force, which operates in the two occupied territories Kashmir and in Afghanistan, sent agents to search for clues on Ms. Palmer’s whereabouts in the records of the Press Information Bureau and the Foreign Correspondents Club in New Delhi.
Nothing was found. In an email interview later that year with a talk show host on the private TVOneNews station in Karachi, Ms. Palmer claimed she was an accredited journalist based in New Delhi and that she used a pen name for security reasons because her reports often probed issues related to the Indian military and intelligence and the powerful Hindu terror groups.
But even if she was based in New Delhi and operated under her original name, her unusual access to often accurate information regarding Indian military and intelligence movements and policies on Pakistan, China, the disputed region of Kashmir made her editors at The Daily Mail happy but raised eyebrows among watchers in Islamabad and New Delhi. A copy editor at The Daily Mail said he often wondered that the only way for Ms. Palmer to get such scoops was to have insiders in the Indian government passing on such information.
Some of her prominent work includes a report titled The most vulnerable naked nukes of India which proved that India’s most important nuclear installations are located in parts of the country where separatist insurgencies are the strongest.
Her Dec. 31 report, titled, Corruption scams generate acute row amongst Indian army top brass was the first report published anywhere to reveal the internal power struggle within the Indian Army. The report was confirmed a few weeks later when the Indian army chief had to leave office mired in scandal and replaced by a general whose power ambitions were first discussed in Ms. Palmer’s Daily Mail report.
Now with the news that a lady Indian diplomat who dealt with media affairs is now under arrest in New Delhi for spying for Pakistan, many are raising an interesting question: Is Madhuri Gupta the long-sought Christina Palmer? Have the Indians finally caught her?
Interestingly, Ms. Palmer has published some of her most insightful and accurate India-specific reports in Pakistan during the last two years.
Coincidentally, that’s the same time that media specialist and now disgraced Indian diplomat Madhuri Gupta was posted in the Indian high commission in Islamabad as Second Secretary.
At one point last year someone leaked to the Pakistani media a list of names of frequent Pakistani visitors to the Indian High Commission – including rights activists, retired generals, former ambassadors and journalists – with some insight into what some of them have told their Indian hosts. No major Pakistani newspaper published the story but details of what these Pakistanis have said to their Indian hosts are scandalous, according to those who are familiar with the leak.
Some of the names in the list tried to win favors from the Indian government, or hinted they would like to be invited to India for conferences to revive their sagging careers.
Question is: Was Ms. Gupta behind this?
We posed this question to the editor of Ms. Palmer’s newspaper, Mr. Makhdoom Babar Sultan. Mr. Babar has often been vilified in the Indian media because of Ms. Palmer’s reports. A commentary on Chennai Television’s website once challenged him, ‘Mr. Baber, you cannot hide a mountain by a shawl.’
He denies there is any link between Ms. Gupta and Ms. Palmer. He also said there was no link between Ms. Gupta’s arrest and the fact that Ms. Palmer’s byline hasn’t appear in the newspaper for several days now.
We also asked him how it was possible for him to retain the services of a correspondent like Christina Palmer with her probing investigative stories.
After all, The Mail is a small newspaper with limited circulation. Five years ago it became the first Pakistani newspaper to print an edition from Beijing, which has been discontinued ever since because of a financial crunch. There have been rumors the paper was funded by Pakistani intelligence. But that seems unlikely considering that the paper faces a severe financial restructuring due to a slump in distribution and advertising.
So is Christina Palmer Madhuri Gupta?
No way, said Makhdoom Babar Sultan. When asked to produce a personal photograph or an address for Ms. Palmer, Mr. Sultan said it would endanger her security in New Delhi, where she is based. He did offer to have her call our reporter from a public telephone in New Delhi.
Only Indian investigators can confirm if Ms. Gupta was actually writing for a Pakistani newspaper under a fake name and leaking out in the process some of the juiciest details about insider happenings in New Delhi.
One last question: How many more Indian diplomats are actually working for Pakistan?
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