New York Times Pakistan bureau chief expelled on eve of country’s election

The Guardian reports: The New York Times’ Pakistan bureau chief has been expelled from the country, on the eve of the national election.

The paper said Pakistan’s Interior Ministry had not explained why it ordered Declan Walsh out of the country. Police officers delivered the interior ministry’s order to Walsh at his home at 12.30am local time on Thursday.

“It is informed that your visa is hereby canceled in view of your undesirable activities,” the order said. “You are therefore advised to leave the country within 72 hours.”

This means Walsh must leave Pakistan by the night of the elections. Saturday’s election is being hailed as a milestone in the development of the country’s much abused democracy – it is the first time in Pakistan’s history that one elected government has handed power to another.
Walsh told the New York Times he was away from his home when he received a phone call from an unrecognized number that said: “Come home now.” He said a half-dozen police officers and a plainclothes officer were waiting outside his home. The plainclothes officer then gave him the order and asked him to sign for it.

“I opened the letter in front of him because I knew it was something serious,” he said. “This was a complete bolt from the blue. I had no inclination that anything of this sort was coming.”

The finger of blame is likely to be pointed at the country’s powerful military establishment, which made clear its anger at some of Walsh’s reporting, particularly on the CIA’s clandestine drone programme, an extremely controversial subject in the country.

In March, Walsh reported that unnamed US officials had denied two drone strikes that had been reported by Pakistan’s media, most likely based on information provided by Pakistan’s military intelligence service. The report suggested the army “may be using the [drone] program to disguise its own operations”.

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