Shailaja Neelakantan |
The Pakistan government, which is facing international isolation+ following the terror attack on India last month, has again done itself no favours by restricting a journalist’s movements.
Almeida reported an exclusive story last week for Dawn newspaper that the civilian government in Islamabad told the all-powerful Pakistan army to clamp down on terrorists+ or risk facing international isolation.
Then, yesterday, an enraged Islamabad restricted Almeida’s movements, by putting him on an ‘Exit Control List’, a move that is likely to isolate Pakistan even more.
Oh, the irony.
A stoic Almeida today tweeted:
Puzzled, saddened. Had no intention of going anywhere; this is my home. Pakistan.
He even seems to have retained a sense of humour.
“Ur very famous in the airport. Ur name plastered at each immigration officer’s desk. A big A4 sheet with just your name.” – ‘sources’ say
In a note on its website, Dawn said it stood by its story, and added that “the elected government and state institutions should refrain from targeting the messenger”. Clearly, its advice fell on deaf years.
Just yesterday, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered “stern action”+ against those responsible for publishing the Dawn article, or what the PM called a “fabricated” story, PTI reported.
It issued a statement after a meeting yesterday, which was attended by Pakistan’s chief of army staff General Raheel Sharif+ , PM Sharif, finance minister Ishaq Dar, interior minister Nisar Ali Khan, Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif and top spy, the ISI’s Lieutenant General Rizwan Akhtar.
“The participants (at the meeting) were unanimous that the published story was clearly violative of universally acknowledged principles of reporting on national security issues and has risked the vital state interests through inclusion of inaccurate and misleading contents which had no relevance to actual discussion and facts,” the statement read.
‘Onlookers describe a stunned room’
In the October 6 exclusive report, Almeida reported that government officials complained that when action was taken against suspected terrorists “the security establishment has worked behind the scenes to set the arrested free.”
Almeida’s report was published a week after India conducted surgical strikes on terrorist camps in Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir. The September 29 strikes were in retaliation for the September 18 terrorist attack in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammad terrorists. As many as 19 soldiers died in the assault on the Uri army post.
The Dawn journalist reported that the civilian Sharif government’s officials openly confronted army officials – in what he called an “extraordinary exchange” – at a secret meeting last week on Tuesday.
Pakistan’s foreign secretary Aizaz Chaudhry said in a presentation at the meeting that despite recent diplomatic outreach, Islamabad “faces diplomatic isolation and that the government’s talking points have been met with indifference+ in major world capitals.”
Following that presentation, the civilian government gave a clear message to the army – “Military-led intelligence agencies are not to interfere if law enforcement acts against militant groups that are banned or until now considered off-limits for civilian action… (and) fresh attempts be made to conclude the Pathankot investigation and restart the stalled Mumbai attacks-related trials in a Rawalpindi anti-terrorism court,” Dawn wrote.
Further, foreign secretary Chaudhry reportedly shocked those at the meeting by saying that “while China has reiterated its support for Pakistan, it too has indicated a preference for a change+ in course by Pakistan.”
Almeida was told by source who were at the meeting that the tone and content of what civilian government officials said to the army was unprecedented.
“Astounded onlookers describe a stunned room that was immediately aware of the extraordinary, unprecedented nature of the exchange,” his report said.