Heavily armed troopers searched the home of The New York Times’ Pakistan correspondent in Islamabad on Tuesday as part of what they said was an anti-terror operation, triggering speculation that it was an attempt to intimidate the journalist.
Salman Masood, who is also the resident editor of the Islamabad edition of The Nation daily, tweeted pictures of the Pakistan Rangers personnel, wearing bulletproof vests and carrying assault rifles, going through cupboards in his home.
Rangers have shown up at my house, saying they want to search the premises but have no documents or warrants#islamabad— Salman Masood (@salmanmasood) January 12, 2016
In a series of tweets, Masood said the paramilitary troopers arrived at his home early on Tuesday and wanted to search the premises even though they had no documents or warrants. They were accompanied by a man in plain clothes who said he was an intelligence operative.
Masood quoted a senior Islamabad Police official as telling him that a “terrorist search operation” was being conducted. “(The Pakistan) Rangers even searched the drawers of my study table and asked if I had any illegal weapons hidden in the house,” he tweeted.
Rangers troops back,along with a senior officer. Hope they find the terrorist pic.twitter.com/ZiAk8tTFZ8— Salman Masood (@salmanmasood) January 12, 2016
A report on the website of The Nation quoted Masood as saying a few other houses in the neighbourhood were searched “but the possibility that it was a cover up cannot be precluded”. He said it was “hard to escape the conclusion the whole incident was a case of harassment”.
When Masood protested, the security personnel said they would not leave without searching the house. The personnel, whom Masood described as aggressive, left after searching his home.
Rangers say it's a "routine search operation" pic.twitter.com/ItZQAi7mjG— Salman Masood (@salmanmasood) January 12, 2016
Many Twitter users, including top Pakistani journalists, condemned the search. Journalists walked out of the National Assembly, the lower house of Pakistan’s parliament, to protest against the incident.
Interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan ordered an inquiry to ascertain who had ordered the raid. He also sought an explanation from police and security agencies, saying, “Such operations and raids are not acceptable at any cost.”
Masood is the second New York Times journalist targeted in recent times. Declan Walsh, the former bureau chief of the newspaper, was thrown out of Pakistan in 2013.