Pakistan says Indian scribe overstayed

New Delhi–The Pakistan High Commission said there was no change in its media policy towards India and termed as “very unfortunate” and “a total falsehood” allegations that the long-serving scribe of an Indian news agency was being “thrown out” of Islamabad. Indian officials said Pakistani authorities have been “dilly-dallying” over clearing visas for Indian journalists.

Manzoor Ali Memon, the press attaché to the Pakistan High Commission, said the Press Trust of India (PTI) correspondent Rezaul Laskar had been in Islamabad from September 2007, and was allowed to stay in their country for “five years and nine months”, which was much beyond the two-three years’ term allowed to journalists.

Asked if there was a change in the media policy of Pakistan towards India, Memon said “there was nothing like that”.

India and Pakistan have a protocol to allow two correspondents from each other’s countries to stay and report. From India it is the Press Trust of India and the Hindu, while from Pakistan it is the Associated Press of Pakistan and Radio Pakistan. However, no Pakistan correspondent has been posted in India since 2010 due to “selection procedures”, said Memon.

Asked why the replacements for the PTI and Hindu have not yet been cleared, Memon said it is “under process and would be cleared soon”.

Memon said they had shown “every courtesy” to the PTI’s Islamabad correspondent and even allowed him to stay on despite his visa having expired on March 15.

“We have extended to him all the courtesies and every cooperation, even treating as authorized the unauthorized period of his stay from March 15, 2013 onwards.. But, it is very unfortunate that he is creating an impression that he is being thrown out and indulging in Pakistan bashing,” Memon told IANS.

Memon said the correspondent was also allowed to cover the Pakistan elections in May though he did not have a valid visa.

He termed as “rubbish and an untruth” allegations that he was told to leave in haste. “We can challenge every allegation.”

The Pakistani official voiced unhappiness over the tweets posted by the correspondent suggesting that he is being thrown out.

“PTI had informed the Pakistan authorities over a year ago that they would be sending a replacement. His visa has not yet been cleared, nor has the Hindu correspondent got clearance. We don’t know why it is taking so long,” said an Indian official.

PTI General Manager (Administration) Shakeel Ahmed told IANS that they had informed the Pakistan High Commission that they want to replace their Islamabad correspondent and been informed that “it is being processed”.

Hindu correspondent Anita Joshua, who has returned to India, told IANS that while she was in Pakistan she had applied for an extension of her visa which was to expire in March. “But I was told in May that I am not being given an extension, so I returned.”–IANS