Prominent Pakistani journalist Cyril Almeida expressed fears last night that the government, which barred him from leaving the country after he reported on a rift between the civilian and military leaderships in his country, is planning to take further, "uglier" action against him.
Almeida's report had created quite a shake-up in the military and political circles. On October 7, he reported that the ISI was told that its support for terror groups led to Pakistan's international isolation.
Here's part of the controversial report:
"First, ISI DG Gen Rizwan Akhtar, accompanied by National Security Adviser Nasser Janjua, is to travel to each of the four provinces with a message for provincial apex committees and ISI sector commanders.
The message: military-led intelligence agencies are not to interfere if law enforcement acts against militant groups that are banned or until now considered off-limits for civilian action. Gen Akhtar's inter-provincial tour has begun with a visit to Lahore.
Second, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has directed that fresh attempts be made to conclude the Pathankot investigation and restart the stalled Mumbai attacks-related trials in a Rawalpindi antiterrorism court."
The Dawn columnist tweeted late last night that he is "convinced" that the government is planning further action against him after it put him on an 'Exit Control List' - a system of border control maintained by Pakistan government which allows it to bar people whose names appear on the list from leaving the country.
Am concerned, possibly convinced, more than 24hrs after the travel ban was imposed that govt is planning to take further, uglier actions.— cyril almeida (@cyalm) October 11, 2016
Pakistan government has denied the story. The PML-N government issued at least four clarifications and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered investigation against those who leaked information of the National Security Council meeting to Cyril.
"(The) Prime Minister took serious notice of the violation and directed that those responsible should be identified for stern action," according to an official statement.
Almeida's scoop came amidst a backdrop of heightened tension between India and Pakistan following the attack on an Indian army base in Uri on September 18 in which 19 soldiers were killed by Pakistan-backed terrorists belonging to the Jaish-e-Mohammed outfit.
On September 29, India carried out "surgical strikes" on seven terror launch pads across the LoC, and the Indian Army said it had inflicted "significant casualties" on terrorists preparing to infiltrate from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Pakistan has denied the surgical strike by India but has claimed two of its soldiers were killed in alleged ceasefire violations along the LoC by Indian troops.
"Barring Cyril Almeida from travelling abroad and the apparent pressure on his employers, the highly respected Dawn newspaper, will cause distress to all those, at home and abroad, who believe in the freedom of expression and the rights of journalists."
Pakistan's Human Rights Commission has also demanded immediate removal of all restrictions on Almeida.
"Barring Cyril Almeida from travelling abroad and the apparent pressure on his employers, the highly respected Dawn newspaper, will cause distress to all those, at home and abroad, who believe in the freedom of expression and the rights of journalists. This is not the time to turn the international journalist community against Pakistan," it said.
"It seems that the authorities are overreacting to a story by Cyril, which touches on journalists' responsibilities in times of trial," the commission said in a statement.
HRCP said it believed that civil-military relations are not a subject beyond the concerns of working journalists or the people at large.
(With PTI inputs)