On the eve of national elections, Pakistan has expelled the Islamabad bureau chief for The New York Times, according to the influential US daily.
The Times has strongly protested the orders of Pakistan’s interior ministry and has been seeking reinstatement of Declan Walsh, 39, a veteran correspondent who has lived and worked in Pakistan for nine years, most of it for The Guardian newspaper of Britain, the newspaper said on Friday.
The ministry did not give any detailed explanation for the expulsion order, which was delivered by police officers in the form of a two-sentence letter to Walsh at 12.30 am on Thursday at his home, it said.
“It is informed that your visa is hereby cancelled in view of your undesirable activities,” the order stated. “You are therefore advised to leave the country within 72 hours.”
Walsh was hired by The Times in January 2012 and has written extensively about the country’s violent political convulsions, Islamist insurgency and sometimes tense relations with the United States, the newspaper said.
Jill Abramson, the newspaper’s executive editor, expressed concern about the order in a letter of protest to Pakistan’s interior minister Malik Muhammad Habib Khan describing Walsh as a “reporter of integrity who has at all times offered balanced, nuanced and factual reporting on Pakistan.”
Asking the minister to reinstate Walsh’s visa, she wrote, the accusation of undesirable activities “is vague and unsupported, and Mr. Walsh has received no further explanation of any alleged wrongdoing.”
The timing of the order was also a surprise, she wrote, coming as Pakistan is holding national elections that are regarded as an important democratic milestone.
“The expulsion of an established journalist, on the day of the voting, contradicts that impression,” Abramson wrote.