Pakistan’s interior ministry has confirmed a travel ban on Dawn reporter Cyril Almeida and defended its decision, saying that Almeida’s presence in the country was necessary for an investigation. Almeida had reported of an “extraordinary” meeting of government and military officials following the Indian Army’s surgical strikes along its Line of Control with Pakistan. Earlier this week, Pakistan had put the reporter on its Exit Control List.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Thursday said that Almeida was scheduled to leave for Dubai on October 11 (the Dawn story came out on October 6), and that the ban was placed because he was needed during the investigation into the Dawn report. Khan added that two or three others were also banned from travelling as they were part of the inquiry too, Geo TV reported. “This inquiry will be be finished in... maybe four days… If the committee feels there is enough evidence to prosecute, then a formal (law enforcement) committee will be made,” Khan said.
The article in question described an “extraordinary verbal confrontation” between the civilian government and the director general of Pakistan’s spy agency ISI, Rizwan Akhtar, during a recent meeting, where Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told the military that Pakistan risks being isolated internationally unless it cracks down on militancy. Pakistan has issued three denials of Almeida’s story.
The Committee for the Protection of Journalists has called on Pakistan's government to lift the restrictions imposed on Almeida. Social media users have been expressing support for the Dawn journalist, using the hashtag #StandWithCyril.
Following the attack on an Army base in Uri, Kashmir, on September 18, relations between India and Pakistan have deteriorated. India has accused Pakistan of harbouring the Jaish-e-Mohammed militant group it has blamed for the attack, while Pakistan has denied the allegations. Both countries have taken each other on verbally at the United Nations.