Pakistan today said a leading journalist, who reported a rift between the civilian and military leaderships, was barred from going abroad to help in a probe into how “inaccurate” details of a crucial security meeting were leaked to the media.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar, while addressing a press conference here for the first time since the controversy over Dawn journalist Cyril Almeida’s name being put on Exit Control List (ECL) erupted, said, “We had no other option but to put his name on the ECL as he was travelling abroad the next day.”
“Had we not put the central character on the ECL, we would have been blamed for letting him go,” he said.
Nisar said the action was taken after the journalist had booked a flight for UAE to leave the country next day after the story was published.
The Minister alleged that the news was “inaccurate”.
He said, “Who leaked this inaccurate news? It was published at the behest of someone, and that will be uncovered …they will be brought to justice. But how can that person be brought to justice, if we allow the journalist to leave the country?”
Nisar stated that an ongoing investigation would be completed very soon.
“The inquiry will end in three to four days and then everyone will be allowed to travel freely,” he said.
Talking about Almeida’s travel ban, Khan said that he would have a meeting with journalists’ representative bodies.
Referring to the story, the Interior Minister was quoted by Dawn News as saying, “An attempt has been made to adversely impact a critical national security paradigm, so there should be an inquiry… Indian media used the report, saying that publication of the story verifies the Indian narrative of Pakistani dealings with non-state actors.”
Banning Almeida from traveling abroad has been widely condemned in Pakistan and abroad.
Earlier this week, Almeida was barred from leaving the country after he reported a rift between the civilian and military leaderships over the powerful ISI shielding terror groups like the Haqqani network and LeT that led to Pakistan’s international isolation.
Almeida, a columnist and reporter for the Dawn newspaper, had tweeted, “Puzzled, saddened. Had no intention of going anywhere; this is my home. Pakistan. I feel sad tonight. This is my life, my country. What went wrong.”
Dawn yesterday rejected allegations of “vested interest and false reporting”. It came out with a scathing editorial, saying Almeida’s story on the verbal clash between government and military was “duly verified and correct piece of reporting.”