Pakistan will soon be without the presence of any Indian journalist. Just when hope was alive of improved ties between India and Pakistan, the Islamabad-based Press Trust of India (PTI) correspondent Razaul Laskar has been asked to leave the country by June 29.
Ironically, Laskar was told to pack up at a time when he has been waiting for an extension of his visa since March this year. MEA sources revealed that he did not buy an air ticket to India since he was waiting for a visa extension.
As an arrangement between India and Pakistan, two journalists from either side are allowed to be posted in Islamabad and New Delhi, respectively. Pakistan has not posted correspondents in India since 2010 and so the positions for Pakistan Broadcasting Association and Associated Press of Pakistan have been lying vacant.
“Since there is no tit for tat involved, we are analysing if this is a signal from the Army to Nawaz Sharif to go slow on his promise of improving relations with India,’’ a senior official told HT. The timing of Lashkar’s sudden departure is curious because he has been posted in Islamabad since September 2006 and has been on visa extensions often.
What is not good news is the fact that Pakistan has not processed visa requests from neither The Hindu nor the PTI. The PTI had applied for a visa for Laskar’s successor over a year ago but the High Commission in Delhi repeatedly said that was being processed. This too is a break from convention because earlier successors were allowed to overlap with the outgoing correspondents. The Hindu too is waiting for a word from the Pakistan High Commission after their correspondent Anita Joshua returned to India on June 1 this year.
Asked why he had suddenly been asked to leave, Laskar told HT from Islamabad, “I’ve been given no reason. I haven’t violated my visa restrictions or rules governing my professional conduct. But the manner in which it was done is very surprising.’’ Laskar, in fact, hasn’t visited India in the last two years because he was not given a re-entry visa.
Pakistan denied that it had asked Lashkar to leave. “I refute the charge that we have asked him to leave the country,’’ said Manzoor Ali Memon, the spokesperson for the Pakistan High Commission, adding: “He should be grateful that he was allowed to stay for nearly five years.”
Pressed for why the successors of both the PTI and the Hindu are being kept hanging, he said, “They are being processed.”