Being critical of the military in any form means treading on dangerous ground for the Pakistani media, with journalists allegedly being detained, beaten and even killed for it.
Cyril Almeida, an assistant editor at Pakistan's reputed English daily Dawn, was the latest to land in trouble when he reported about a purported rift between the civilian and military leadership over the latter's support for militants.
He was promptly put on the Exit Control List by the Pakistani authorities, which bars him from leaving the country. Almeida's report was also vehemently refuted on three occasions by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s office.
Here’s a background on Almeida, who has his roots in Goa, and why his report didn’t go down well with the Pakistani government.
A Goan Catholic Journalist From Karachi
A leading journalist in Pakistan, Almeida got a Bachelor’s degree in law from England and returned to Karachi. After practising law for a year, he switched over to journalism.
He has been with Dawn, set up by Pakistan’s founding father Mohammed Ali Jinnah, for quite a few years and is a well-known columnist.
It’s a little-known fact on this side of the border that he is a Catholic with his roots in Goa. His family migrated to Karachi almost a hundred years ago when the state was under Portuguese rule.
Konkani is still spoken at his home by the older generation but has been replaced by English among other family members.
Almeida first visited Goa only in 2012 to participate in the Goa Arts and Literary Festival (GALF), and then followed it up with two more visits, the last one in December 2015, according to News18.
He was scheduled to travel to Dubai with his family for a long-planned holiday, but received word on Monday evening that he won’t be allowed on the plane. In response, he tweeted that Pakistan was his home and that he was ”saddened” by the events.
He also says he feared a stronger reprisal from the government.
Why the Report Elicited Such Strong Reactions
In the report, Almeida had quoted unnamed sources who said they were present at a meeting chaired by Sharif and attended by army brass and Inter Services
Intelligence (ISI) officials.
He cited the sources as saying that the civilian government asked the military to distance itself from militant groups in light of the growing isolation of the country internationally.
Differences between civilian officials and the powerful military may be reported rarely, but they are as old as Pakistan itself.
Pakistan's military has long been using militant groups as armed proxies against India and Afghanistan, and repeatedly undermining attempts by governments to promote trade and normalisation in the region.
However, after the report was published, Sharif ordered authorities to take “stern action” against those responsible for publishing the “fabricated” story.
The newspaper stood by Almeida and his story. He also has support from the more liberal section in his country.
Almeida’s scoop came on a backdrop of heightened tension between India and Pakistan following the attack on an Indian army base in Uri on 18 September. In the terror strike, 20 soldiers were killed by Pakistan-backed terrorists from Jaish-e-Mohammed.
The attack led India to seek to diplomatically isolate Pakistan and was also followed by surgical trikes by the Indian army on terror launch pads in PoK.