ISLAMABAD - Authorities in Pakistan have revoked a controversial travel ban on a leading journalist days after he was barred from leaving the country for publishing a story about a national security meeting.
Pakistan officials described the story as fabricated. Almeida and his newspaper maintained its accuracy.
The punitive action against the journalist, Cyril Almeida, stemmed from his Oct. 6 front-page article in the English-language DAWN newspaper in which he detailed a heated exchange between civilian and military authorities on how to tackle Islamist extremism.
An official statement Friday said the decision to revoke the ban was “a goodwill gesture” taken after a meeting between federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and a delegation of leaders of media houses in Pakistan.
The controversial article quoted civilian leaders as warning the military that Pakistan faced international isolation unless it acts against anti-India and anti-Afghanistan militants allegedly operating out of Pakistan. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chaired the unpublicized meeting with cabinet ministers and the country’s military spy chief in attendance.
The government has repeatedly denied the story. It launched an inquiry to identify who had leaked what officials insisted was “inaccurate and misleading” information.
Authorities placed Almeida’s name on the so-called Exit Control List late Monday, forcing him to abandon a family vacation to Dubai that he was to take the next morning. The list is meant for preventing criminals, suspects facing trial, and those wanted for corruption from leaving Pakistan.
The move triggered national and international outrage and calls to immediately remove the travel ban on Almeida, a highly respected columnist.
Friday’s statement quoted Khan as emphasizing that the “removal of the name of the journalist would in no way affect the ongoing inquiry into the matter and the inquiry would continue to its logical conclusion.”
Army Chief General Raheel Sharif chaired a meeting of his top military commanders in Rawalpindi on Friday, where the issue again came under discussion.
Participants expressed serious concern over the feeding of a “false and fabricated story of an important security meeting … and viewed it as a breach of national security,” according to the statement the military’s media wing issued after the meeting.