Islamabad: Pakistan has told both Indian journalists stationed in Islamabad that they must leave within a week, the journalists told, saying they had been informed that their visas would not be renewed.
The move came amid simmering tensions between Pakistan’s powerful military and a civilian government that appears dovish towards archrival India, where Hindu nationalist opposition leader Narendra Modi appears set to win a general election.
Late on Tuesday night, Snehesh Alex Philip of The Press Trust of India and Meena Menon of The Hindu received letters telling them that their visas would not be renewed. No reason was given. Both had been in Pakistan for less than a year.
Pakistan has become an increasingly dangerous place for journalists to operate, but restrictions put on Indian reporters’ movements are stricter than for other foreign journalists.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has repeatedly said publicly that he wants to improve relations with India and has pledged to improve press freedoms. But Pakistan’s military remains deeply suspicious of both journalists and India.
The two nuclear-armed neighbours have fought three wars since they became separate countries in 1947. Their governments have a reciprocal arrangement allowing two correspondents from each country to be stationed in the other’s capital.
Pakistani journalists face much greater threats than foreigners. At least 34 Pakistani journalists have been killed for their work since Pakistan returned to democracy in 2008, but in only one case has the killer been convicted.
Pakistan’s feared military spy agency was implicated in numerous cases of abductions, torture, and killings, an Amnesty International report said last month.
The defense ministry demanded in April that Geo TV, the country’s most popular channel, be shut down after it aired accusations that the spy agency was responsible for the shooting of one of its top news anchors.
Last year, the government expelled a reporter from The New York Times.