Pakistan expels NY Times reporter before elections

11 May 2013


— File Photo
— File Photo

NEW YORK: Pakistan is expelling The New York Times' Islamabad bureau chief on the eve of national elections, accusing him of unspecified ''undesirable activities,'' the newspaper said on Friday.

Declan Walsh, a longtime foreign correspondent who had been covering the country for the Times since January 2012, was handed a two-sentence letter early Thursday ordering him to leave, the newspaper said.

Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson protested the expulsion in a letter to Pakistan's interior minister, Malik Muhammad Habib Khan. Abramson described Walsh as a ''reporter of integrity who has at all times offered balanced, nuanced and factual reporting on Pakistan.''

Abramson wrote that the accusation of ''undesirable activities'' was ''vague and unsupported, and Mr. Walsh has received no further explanation of any alleged wrongdoing.''

''On eve of Pakistani elections, been asked to leave,'' Walsh, 39, wrote on Twitter. Walsh, who worked for The Guardian newspaper of Britain prior to joining the Times, was quoted as saying that his expulsion was ''a complete bolt from the blue. I had no inclination that anything of this sort was coming.''

He lived and worked in Pakistan for the past nine years.

In recent days, Walsh reported on political patronage in Pakistan and the fatal shooting of the prosecutor who was investigating the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Saturday's vote would be the first time in Pakistan's 65-year history that a civilian government has completed its full term and handed over power in democratic elections.

Previous governments have been toppled by military coups or sacked by presidents allied with the powerful army.