Pakistan has lifted a travel ban imposed on a leading journalist for reporting that civilian officials had clashed with the country’s powerful military over its alleged covert support of armed fighters.
An official memorandum issued by the Ministry of the Interior on Friday said that “it has been decided to delete the name of Cyril Almeida … from the Exit Control List”.
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No further details were given on what prompted the government to remove Almeida’s name.
Almeida published a copy of the document on his Twitter page.
“All concerned are requested to take immediate action in the matter” – yes, please! pic.twitter.com/nz7AY19G4P
"All concerned are requested to take immediate action in the matter" – yes, please! pic.twitter.com/nz7AY19G4P
— cyril almeida (@cyalm) October 14, 2016
In the October 6 exclusive news report, Almeida said that some in the civilian government complained at a top-secret meeting that they were being asked to do more to crack down on armed groups – yet whenever law-enforcement agencies took action “the security establishment … worked behind the scenes to set the arrested free”.
Insisting that the law should apply equally to all, the civilian government’s representatives at the meeting gave warning that Pakistan risked international isolation if the security establishment did not take the recommended course of action, according to the report.
Almeida’s story came against a backdrop of heightened tension in the region following a claim by the Indian government of a cross-border “surgical strike” by army commandos on September 18, apparently in response to a deadly assault on an army post in Indian-administered Kashmir.
India blames Pakistan-based armed groups for the attack, a charge rejected by the Pakistani government.
Islamabad’s Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Thursday branded Almeida’s report – which sparked an uproar with its claims that top officials had warned the army to stop supporting proxy fighters abroad – the “narrative of our enemies”.
He added an inquiry was being held into whether the journalist should be prosecuted.
Amnesty International criticised the travel ban on Almeida as “crude” and called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to “remember his promise” to improve conditions for journalists.
For years Pakistan has been accused of cracking down on only those armed groups that have turned their guns inward towards the state, while harbouring those who fight abroad for its strategic ends.
Pakistan is routinely ranked among the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists, and critical reporting of the military is considered a major red flag, with journalists at times detained, beaten and even killed.