Pakistan is facing daunting challenges, including a violent insurgency that threatens the state. Yet its Interior Ministry just prior to the May 11 election had nothing better to do than to expel Declan Walsh, the New York Times’s bureau chief in Pakistan.
The reasons for the expulsion was not explained. However, a section of the Urdu press has quoted intelligence sources as saying that he was a spy and working for the CIA. He has also been accused of being a close friend of Raymond Davis, another CIA agent who was sent to America after he killed two Pakistanis in Lahore.
The expulsion letter was a two-sentence ibe. The action was taken “in view of your undesirable activities,” the letter read.
Mr. Declan Walsh, 39, has been based in Pakistan since 2004, working first for The Guardian and since 2012 for the NYT.
Jill Abramson, the NYT‘s executive editor, strongly protested the expulsion in a letter to the interior minister, Malik Muhammad Habib Khan.
Mr. Walsh “has a strong track record as a reporter of integrity who has at all times offered balanced, nuanced and factual reporting on Pakistan,” she wrote. “Your charge of ‘undesirable activities’ is vague and unsupported, and Mr. Walsh has received no further explanation of any alleged wrongdoing. We stand by his reporting.”
Mr. Walsh was on a social visit May 9 evening when he received a phone call from a number he did not recognize advising him to “come home now.” He arrived at 12:30 a.m. to find police officers waiting outside, along with a plainclothes officer who handed him the expulsion letter. While the exact circumstances of his expulsion are unusual, his punishment is not. Even as private media have grown more vibrant, Pakistani officials continue to restrict critical reporting and, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the country remains one of the deadliest for journalists.
Without Mr. Walsh and journalists like him — both Pakistani and foreign — on the scene, Pakistanis and the international community would not know about the level of pre-election violence, including Taliban bombings and the abduction on May 9 of a candidate who is the son of a former prime minister.
Nor would they learn of the extent of Pakistan’s patronage networks, as Mr. Walsh reported on May 8. But maybe that is the point.