Senior Pakistani journalist barred from leaving country after writing ISI-government showdown report

Cyril Almeida's name was struck off the Exit Control List as a 'goodwill gesture'. Photograph:( Facebook )

Islamabad, Pakistan Oct 11, 2016, 03.42 AM (IST)

A prominent Pakistani journalist, who recently reported about the heated standoff between the civilian government and the army over treatment of jihadi groups in the country, has been barred from travelling abroad.

Cyril Almeida, an assistant editor at Pakistani newspaper Dawn, took to Twitter to say that he has been put on the 'Exit Control List', days after he published about how Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif confronted army's intelligence chief Rizwan Akhtar and accused his agency of protecting jihadist groups operating in the country. People on the Exit Control List are prohibited from leaving the country. 

Almeida was supposed to board a flight to Dubai for a family vacation on Tuesday, but was told the previous evening that he could not leave the country.


In an October 3 story that was published on the front page of Dawn, Almeida had quoted unnamed officials who had attended the All Parties' Conference as saying that Nawaz Sharif bluntly told Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) director general Rizwan Akhtar that his agency had to take tough measures against jihadist groups or risk facing international isolation.

Almeida was unable to name his sources in the report because no-one wanted to come on record.

Almedia's report stated that the civilian government did not want the ISI to provide covert help to jihadis.

The story created ripples in Islamabad. The Pakistani government denied the veracity of the report thrice, each rebuttal more strongly worded than the previous one. 

The Prime Minister's office denied any such confrontation and termed the news story as "misleading". 

"The participants were unanimous that the published story was clearly violative of universally acknowledged principles of reporting on National Security issues and has risked the vital state interests through inclusion of inaccurate and misleading contents which had no relevance to actual discussion and facts," the third statement issued by the Office of Prime Minister read.

Dawn has defended Almeida's story, saying it "was verified, cross-checked and fact-checked".

The report was particularly embarrassing for Islamabad as it was published barely a fortnight after four armed men launched a deadly attack on an Indian Army installation in Uri, Kashmir. India believes that Islamabad helped the four militants in launching the assault, which left 18 Indian soldiers dead.

At the time, Pakistan was attempting to pressure India about its human rights violation in Kashmir but the Uri attack eclipsed the civil unrest in the Valley. Pakistan was condemned in international fora for its inability to clamp down on jihadis living in the country.