Government officials in Pakistan have expelled 39-year-old New York Times reporter and Islamabad bureau chief Declan Walsh for participating in unspecified "undesirable activities." According to a Times report filed on Friday afternoon, Pakistani law enforcement agents informed Walsh on Thursday that the country's government had canceled his visa, giving him less than three days to leave country, meaning he'll likely miss the outcome of Pakistan's upcoming general election, scheduled for tomorrow. Walsh told Rick Gladstone that his expulsion had not been anticipated:
Mr. Walsh said the circumstances of the expulsion order’s delivery were highly unusual. He had been on a social visit Thursday evening, he said, when received a phone call from an unrecognized number advising him to “come home now.” Mr. Walsh arrived to find a half-dozen police officers and a plainclothes officer waiting outside. The plainclothes officer approached his front gate, handed him the letter and asked him to sign for it. “I opened the letter in front of him because I knew it was something serious,” he said. “This was a complete bolt from the blue. I had no inclination that anything of this sort was coming.”
In a letter protesting his expulsion, Times editor Jill Abramson defended Walsh as a "reporter of integrity who has at all times offered balanced, nuanced and factual reporting on Pakistan." But that may not make much of a difference to Pakistan's leaders, who have a history of banishing Western journalists over negative coverage. In 2008 the country exiled the journalist Nicholas Schmidle after he wrote about Taliban forces in Pakistan for The New York Times Magazine. The year before that, three Daily Telegraph reporters received orders to leave after a Telegraph op-ed harshly criticized then-President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf.
Walsh learned of his expulsion a day after The Times published his report about the influence of political favors in Pakistani politics, in particular those designed to steer Saturday's election. "Patronage has long been the bedrock of politics in Pakistan, where votes are dictated less by the strategic issues that concern Western allies ... and more by immediate concerns about legal protection and government handouts," wrote Walsh, who has covered Pakistan for the Times since January 2012. Besides political corruption, Walsh's reportage has recently focused on Pakistan's struggle to contain intense, widespread violence as it plans for tomorrow's election.