A leading Pakistani daily on Wednesday asked the civilian and military establishment why action against JeM chief Masood Azhar and JuD’s Hafiz Saeed was “danger” to the country’s national security. The strong editorial in The Nation, considered close to the government and military establishment, came as a prominent journalist, Cyril Almeida, of Dawn was banned from leaving Pakistan because of his front-page report on a rift between the military and the civilian government over the military’s covert support to militant groups like the Haqqani network, Taliban and the LeT.
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The editorial titled ‘How to Lose Friends And Alienate People’ said the government and the military instead of taking actions against Azhar and Saeed was lecturing the press. Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) leader and Pathankot terror attack mastermind Azhar and Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) chief Saeed, the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, roam freely in Pakistan and are believed to have the protection of the military.
The daily said in its editorial that it was a “disturbing day when civilian and military top leadership meet to lecture the media on how to do their job.” “Apparently a barrage of online abuse, and three official denials were not enough to assuage tempers riled after Mr Almeida’s exclusive story in Dawn, detailing an unusual exchange between the very same civilian and military top brass that yesterday issued forth a statement on the violation of ‘universally acknowledged principles of reporting on national security issues’, the editorial said.
“The report by Mr Almeida has been called ‘fabricated’, and ‘speculative reporting’. But the government and military top brass in yesterday’s meeting delivered no explanation for why government MNA’s are protesting the visible presence of banned outfits in Pakistan. Or why possible action against Masood Azhar, or Hafiz Saeed is a danger to ‘national security’. Or why Pakistan faces increasing isolation? We’re all ears.”
“Instead, how dare the government and military top brass lecture the press on how to do their job. How dare they treat a feted reporter like a criminal. And how dare they imply that they have either the right or the ability or the monopoly to declare what Pakistan’s ‘national interest’ is,” it said.
“And for Mr Almeida, nothing but solidarity. More power to you, and to your pen. The press stands with you,” it added. In an editorial, Dawn said it continues to stand-by Almeida’s story and has rejected allegations of “vested interest and false reporting”. The Karachi Press Club has also demanded that the travel ban on Almeida be lifted.
Almeida, a columnist for Dawn, yesterday said he has been put on Exit Control List – a border control system maintained by Pakistan government which allows it to bar people whose names appear on the list from leaving the country.
He had reported that leading civilian officials had warned the powerful army to renounce its covert support to militants like the Haqqani network, Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba – or face international isolation.