One of ’s most respected journalists has been barred from leaving the country after reporting on government concerns that the military’s support for jihadi groups was leaving the country internationally isolated.
, a prominent columnist and reporter for the leading Dawn newspaper, said he had been told he had been put on the “exit control list” days after penning a front-page story about a dramatic confrontation between Pakistan’s civilian and army leadership over militant groups that operate from Pakistan but engage in war against India and Afghanistan.
The story about the “unprecedented” showdown between the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, and the army’s spy chief triggered a storm of controversy when it was published in the English language paper on Thursday.
Almeida was booked on a Tuesday morning flight to Dubai for a long-planned holiday with members of his family but received word on Monday evening that he would not be allowed to board the plane.
“I am on the list – I have seen it and I have been told not to go to the airport,” he said.
His news story had quoted unnamed senior officials who said they witnessed , the director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI), on 3 October.
According to Dawn, Akhtar was told could only avoid international isolation if it took action against Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Haqqani network.
JeM and LeT are jihadi groups dedicated to fighting against India, especially in the contested region of Kashmir, while the Haqqani network is .
and the US have consistently alleged that all three groups receive clandestine ISI support, a claim Pakistan denies.
Dawn’s allegations were all the more incendiary because of their timing just weeks after a deadly militant attack on an Indian military base in the disputed territory of Kashmir that Delhi has blamed on Pakistan-based jihadis.
The government has repeatedly denied the story and announced on Monday that the matter had been discussed in a meeting with Sharif, Akhtar and the army chief, Gen Raheel Sharif.
In a statement Sharif’s office vowed “stern action” for those responsible for a news story that “risked the vital state interests through inclusion of inaccurate and misleading contents which had no relevance to actual discussion and facts”.
On Monday night Dawn’s editor, Zaffar Abbas, issued a statement on an official Facebook page standing by a story which he said had been “”.
“The elected government and state institutions should refrain from targeting the messenger, and scapegoating the country’s most respected newspaper in a malicious campaign,” the statement said.