Pak expels two Indian scribes

New Delhi calls it retrograde step, to raise issue with Islamabad

In a sudden decision which was denounced as a “retrograde step” by India, Pakistan has expelled the two Indian journalists posted there and asked them to leave within seven days without assigning any reason.

Press Trust of India’s (PTI) Snehesh Alex Philip and The Hindu newspaper’s Meena Menon received letters late on Tuesday night from Pakistan government’s External Publicity Wing informing them that an unnamed “competent authority” had decided against any extension of their visas.

Philip and Menon, the only two Indian journalists in Pakistan, have been in Islamabad for just about nine months. They have been asked to leave by May 20.

‘Regrettable’

Reacting strongly to the decision, Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi said not allowing independent journalists to function was a “retrograde step” and termed the expulsion of the scribes as “regrettable and unfortunate”.

Asserting that free flow of information between India and Pakistan has long been recognised as an important confidence building measure (CBM), the External Affairs Ministry spokesperson said this should be safeguarded by all concerned and added that India intends to take this issue up with Pakistan.

Regretting the sudden and inexplicable decision of the Pakistani authorities, PTI’s Editor-in-Chief and CEO M K Razdan said, “We have been given no notice, no reason and no rationale for this virtual expulsion by the Pakistan government that keeps affirming that they want improved relations with India.”

Pakistan has a system of giving visas to Indian journalists for a few months at a time and they are then required to repeatedly seek extensions.

Philip’s two predecessors, K J M Varma and Rezaul H Laskar spent more than six years each in Islamabad. Philip’s wife came to India in January to attend a family wedding but has been unable to go back because she has not been issued a visa.

The move comes days ahead of installation of a new government in India and diplomatic observers say that Pakistan’s unilateral action will not go down well with New Delhi.

India and Pakistan had reached an understanding in late 1970s for posting of two mediapersons from each country. PTI has regularly posted correspondents in Pakistan since then and some Pakistani journalists were stationed in India from time to time, although currently there are none from Pakistan.

Pakistan had also expelled New York Times correspondent Declan Walsh last year at a short notice without any explanation.

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