The greatest hits from the New York Times journalist asked to leave Pakistan

The greatest hits from the New York Times journalist asked to leave Pakistan

With Pakistan’s election just around the corner on Saturday — and amid a month-long campaign of violence that local papers have dubbed the “reign of terror” — the New York Times reported Friday that Pakistan’s Interior Ministry has demanded that the paper’s Islamabad bureau chief, noted journalist Declan Walsh, leave the country. From the Times‘s report:

The ministry gave no explanation for the expulsion order, which was delivered via a two-sentence letter by police officers to the bureau chief, Declan Walsh, at 12:30 a.m. Thursday local time at his home.

“It is informed that your visa is hereby canceled in view of your undesirable activities,” the order stated. “You are therefore advised to leave the country within 72 hours.” The timing of the order means Mr. Walsh must exit Pakistan on the night of the elections.

Walsh has reported from Pakistan for the past nine years for the New York Times and the Guardian, and his journalism is characterized by an eye for detail and a knack for making a frequently perplexing country comprehensible. For the past month, his reports have focused on the run-up to Pakistan’s May 11 election: political maneuvering and rivalries, patronage networks, and the string of attacks that have punctuated the campaign. We’ve collected some of his greatest hits from recent weeks below.

From his May 8 article on Pakistan’s feudalistic patronage networks:

As a result, Multan has been transformed, residents say. The city is ribboned with new roads and expressways, while a modern airport, capable of accommodating wide-body jets, is near completion. The railway station has been overhauled, some neighborhoods have new sewerage and young students have been awarded generous scholarships.

A giant billboard outside Mr. Gilani’s house lists his achievements: 34 major development projects, costing more than $280 million, all financed by Pakistani taxpayers. “Multan has become like Paris for us,” said Muhammad Bilal, a 28-year-old laborer and enthusiastic Gilani supporter, at a rally last week….

Mr. Gilani, for example, was in jail from 2001 to 2006 during the rule of Gen. Pervez Musharraf on a charge of arranging 600 government jobs for his constituents during a previous administration in the 1990s. “If giving jobs is a crime, then I am a criminal,” he told voters at one rally, to loud cheers.

In fact, the practice is institutionalized: The government gives each Parliament member, no matter the party, about $200,000 a year to spend on “development” — effectively, a patronage slush fund.

He writes a riveting lede, like this one from his May 5 article about Pakistan’s hardline Islamist candidates:

Dust swirled as the jeep, heralded by a convoy of motorcycle riders and guarded by gunmen in paramilitary-style uniforms, pulled up outside the towering tomb of an ancient Muslim saint.

Out stepped Maulana Abdul Khaliq Rehmani, a burly cleric with a notorious, banned Sunni Muslim group. Thanks to a deft name change by his group, he was now a candidate in Pakistan’s general election, scheduled for Saturday.

Or this intro from his April 21 article on the Pakistani Taliban’s intimidation tactics:

When Shahid Khan started talking, his gunmen clambered onto a school’s rooftop, scanning the surrounding hills with flashlights, anticipating a possible attack.

In the past 10 days, militants have carried out five attacks against Mr. Khan’s party.

Below them, Mr. Khan, a candidate for his region’s provincial assembly, addressed potential voters – poor farmers and village traders, gathered on a cluster of rope beds outside the school, listening raptly to his promises. Then, after wolfing down snacks offered by his hosts, he abruptly left.

“They say it’s not safe around here,” said Mr. Khan, as he leapt into a waiting car, trailed by a bodyguard. “We’d better get going.”

No stranger to Pakistan’s extremist groups, Walsh profiled Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the leader of Lashkar-e-Taiba, in February:

…Mr. Saeed lives an open, and apparently fearless, life in a middle-class neighborhood here.

“I move about like an ordinary person — that’s my style,” said Mr. Saeed, a burly 64-year-old, reclining on a bolster as he ate a chicken supper. “My fate is in the hands of God, not America.”

New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson has written to the Pakistani interior minister protesting the decision, and journalists and analysts have voiced their support on Twitter.

Walsh, for his part, has so far only tweeted out the Times article about his enforced departure:


Declan Walsh/Twitter