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Amidst the euphoria, the dark underbelly

Published May 14, 2013 08:24am


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Declan Walsh at Karachi Literature Festival. — photo
Declan Walsh at Karachi Literature Festival. — photo

KARACHI, May 13: A day after arriving in London via a Pakistan International Airlines flight from Lahore, Declan Walsh, the expelled New York Times’ Pakistan bureau chief, is reeling from the heavy-handed treatment he received during his final hours in the country and still unsure why he was asked to leave Pakistan.

In an interview with Dawn on Monday, Walsh said: “I wish I knew why I was told to leave Pakistan. ‘Undesirable activities’ is so broad as to be virtually meaningless.”

“We asked this question repeatedly at every level of the government: spokesmen, section heads, ambassadors, generals, ministers,” Walsh continued. “Some offered vague suggestions but nothing concrete, appearing as embarrassed and as bewildered as I was. Others were silent.”

The veteran correspondent’s ordeal began last Thursday, just hours before he was set to leave for Lahore to cover the weekend’s general election.

“The police came to my house (in Islamabad) after midnight with a plain-clothes officer who said he was with the Special Branch, bearing a letter from the Interior Ministry. I opened the letter in front of them. Then they asked me to sign a delivery receipt, we shook hands and off they went,” Walsh explained.

He continued, “Two days later, with the clock ticking on my 72-hour deadline, it became clear that the decision could not be reversed. I went to Lahore to cover the elections on my last day in Pakistan, where I was detained at a military checkpost and questioned extensively.”

After being questioned at the military checkpost, matters began to quickly deteriorate. “I was released and went to a friend’s house, where men identifying themselves as belonging to the ‘security services’ turned up and demanded I come with them to the airport — even though the 72-hours had not expired, and my flight was 11 hours away,” Walsh recounted.

After being told that as an “anti-state element” he could not stay in a Pakistani citizen’s home, Walsh negotiated with the officials who agreed to take him to the Avari Hotel, where he was kept under virtual room arrest until he left for the airport to catch the 6am PIA flight to London.


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Comments (21) Closed

HNY13 May 14, 2013 10:20am
Hey, of all the things .............he survived the PIA flight (lahore to London). All is forgiven now :)
Arshad Javed Khan May 14, 2013 12:04pm

Great decision by the Government. I have worked in the Special Branch and I know all the activities of these so-called foreign journalists.

Zabandraz May 14, 2013 12:32pm

This is the way to treat the spies & crooks. Job well done by the Security Agencies

Georges Bataille May 14, 2013 03:20pm

Declan Walsh is an exemplary journalist. Calling him a "spy," and accusing him of "activities" without proof, is an act of great cowardice. When a government goes out of it's way to silence journalists (see: the murder of Saleem Shahzad) they are revealed to be scared to the point of paranoia when truth is spoken to power.

Another Journalist from Pakistan May 14, 2013 03:22pm

Pakistan loses another great journalist. His reporting on Pakistan was thorough, well-researched and extremely good.

sal May 14, 2013 03:30pm

Perhap he uncovered some military corruption. can't have that can we. a country where the people should know the truth.

zafarov May 14, 2013 04:12pm

@Arshad Javed Khan: So Mr Know-it-all, do please enlighten us about what are the exact

A Pakistani May 14, 2013 04:47pm

Good work done by the Security Agencies, we need to be tight with these CIA agents in the shape of news correspondence / foreign journalists.

Khurram Jadoon May 14, 2013 05:55pm

Really, Mr. Walsh! you didn't know what your were doing in Pakistan? In that case, NY Times should sack you well before your expulsion - complete innocence.

Abdul Malik May 14, 2013 08:30pm

Welcome to the club! Have you ever experienced (I doubt it) or witnessed the way how Homeland Security personnel posted at the various American borders treat Pakistanis? I invite you to please go and see for yourself. You are a journalist and this will augur well to please go see first hand the ill treatment that your own US Immigration officials give to visitors, or even businessmen, of Pakistan origin. Only then you will have all the answers to your so called complaint of "heavy handed treatment". People living in glass houses do not throw stones !

Riaz Ahamd May 14, 2013 10:34pm

Raymond Davis was another innocent man working for American consulate, his innocence became clear as day light when he shot dead two Pakistani intelligence operatives following him on a motorbike.

Laeeq May 14, 2013 10:55pm

Well freedom of speech/expression is for the Pakistni media outlets, not for a world renown news paper of a foreign country. What ever the circumstances are behind his expulsion, it will remain mystery. Care taker government should clarify its position in this matter.

Bilal May 14, 2013 11:53pm

If the Government is trying to stop him from working on some report, Walsh can always write about it from US/UK etc. He must really have been involved in some 'undesirable activities'.

Good job!

Hasan May 15, 2013 01:19am

While I sympathise with Mr Walsh's traumatic experience, I cannot help but feel a slight feeling of tit-for-tat happiness; as a Pakistani professional visiting the US for conferences, meetings etc., I have been subjected to highly unpleasant treatment at various levels by the US security. Unfair, but that's life I guess. That's the way myself and many other Pakistanis have made sense of the madness we're subjected to on US soil..

raji May 15, 2013 02:55am

Why he claiming innnocence now ? Only a week before he has written treachrous propaganga article for guardian.

Ahmed May 15, 2013 04:34am

The real target of this expulsion of a respected journalist by the "security agency" is the democratic government of Pakistan itself. Those who think the military interference in politics in Pakistan is now over and so they can applaud yet another criminal act by the same "security agencies" that had brought Pakistan to the brink of disaster are either trolls or live in a fools paradise or both.

faisal May 15, 2013 11:18am

I am appalled at the number of comments to this piece congratulating the government/agencies and celebrating his ouster. Declan Walsh is a renowned and seasoned journalist who understands Pakistan well and has never so much as even hinted any illwill in his writing. To say that he's a CIA agent, spy without absolutely no evidence, is ridiculous beyond comprehension. These idiots should first at least read a few of his articles before taxing their pea-size brains to raise allegations.

Sixer May 15, 2013 01:27pm

@faisal: I pity you man. As someone who spoke directly with the spook who worked on DW's case, I pity you.

Hamza May 15, 2013 01:40pm

I think you people did not read the part where the article says that he was about to cover the general elections in Lahore...where allegations of rigging have been made...???

Osama May 15, 2013 01:42pm

@Khurram Jadoon: he was going to cover the general elections in lahore. Its written there in the article but somehow everyone is ignoring that fact

Osama May 15, 2013 01:44pm

facepalm @ Xenophobia