Just a day after Pakistan's Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Khan said that the travel restrictions on journalist Cyril Almeida will be lifted once the probe into the placement of his name on the Exit Control List (ECT) is completed, the Dawn reported on Friday that the government has ordered for a removal of his name from the list.
Almeida also tweeted the good news with a message for all concerned to act immediately.
"All concerned are requested to take immediate action in the matter" - yes, please! pic.twitter.com/nz7AY19G4P
— cyril almeida (@cyalm) October 14, 2016
In a response to a tweet saying that once Almeida is removed from the list, he will run away, Almeida said that he only plans on going to his mother's home in Khi to meet her and his nephews.
No plans to travel anywhere other than to see mum, nephews in their home in Khi. Not sure why I'd run away from my home, which is Pakistan. https://t.co/79XixYpReF
— cyril almeida (@cyalm) October 14, 2016
Khan assured the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) and the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) that Almeida's name would be removed from the list in a meeting held in Islamabad, according to the Dawn report.
However, he cautioned Almeida by saying that this would not translate into a closure of the inquiry against him. He told the participants that the inquiry would continue till its logical conclusion.
Almeida had reported a rift between the civilian and military leaderships over the powerful ISI shielding terror groups like the Haqqani network and LeT in Dawn and was subsequently put on the ECT on 11 October.
The minister had previously said that Almeida's story was absolutely false and on Friday, he reiterated his stand. The Dawn report quoted him as saying that the independent media must play its role not only towards safeguarding national interests and security but also counter negative propaganda by enemies of the state.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's office has rejected the story thrice. However, the Pakistani newspaper stuck to their story and in an Editor's note, it stated that the story was "was verified, cross-checked and fact-checked.
The editorial also urged the government to immediately remove Almeida's name from the ECL.
"While any media organisation can commit an error of judgement and Dawn is no exception, the paper believes it handled the story in a professional manner and carried it only after verification from multiple sources.
"Moreover, in accordance with the principles of fair and balanced journalism, for which Dawn is respected not only in Pakistan but also internationally, it twice carried the denials issued by the Prime Minister's Office," it said.
Various journalists had come out in support of Almeida and Dawn. The Nation too lent it support to rival Dawn in an editorial and told them 'The press stands with you'.
"For...government's actions, there can be no feeling, save of contempt. And for Mr Almeida, nothing but solidarity. More power to you, and to your pen. The press stands with you," the piece read.
Jawed Naqvi points out in the Firstpost piece that Sharif is livid with Almeida even though he was more severe with the army in his writing. "It is the government, not the army that has put Almeida in the dock as a potentially anti-national writer."
Sharif on Monday had asked authorities to take "stern action" against people responsible for publishing the "fabricated" story.
Dawn had also called the whole episode as "scape-goating the country's most respected newspaper in a malicious campaign" and asked the elected government and state institutions to "refrain from targeting the messenger".
Almeida had previously feared that the Pakistani government "is planning to take further, uglier actions."
Am concerned, possibly convinced, more than 24hrs after the travel ban was imposed that govt is planning to take further, uglier actions.
— cyril almeida (@cyalm) October 11, 2016
The issue was discussed and taken up by all international media houses as well. The US had expressed concern over the difficulties and dangers faced by journalists in Pakistan but refrained from commenting on the travel restrictions imposed on Almeida.
"I'm aware of the reports of restrictions on Mr (Cyril) Almeida's travel. I would refer you to the Government of Pakistan for information on that," State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters at his daily news conference on Tuesday.
The Committee to Protect Journalists urged Pakistan to "immediately lift the travel ban" on Almeida.
"Pakistan can be a dangerous place for journalists, but the nation has a proud tradition of a fiercely independent press," said CPJ Asia Programme Coordinator Steven Butler.
"Unhappiness with a press report should never be used as an excuse to restrict the freedom of a journalist," he added.
With inputs from agencies