An International New York Times opinion piece criticising the powerful Pakistani army was censored by its local publisher today, replaced by a blank space in a country where it can be dangerous to speak out against the military establishment.
The online version of the piece by Mohammed Hanif, a high-profile satirist and novelist whose critiques of Pakistani society regularly appear in the New York Times, was trending on Pakistani social media by this afternoon.
In the article, entitled “Pakistan’s Triangle of Hate”, he savaged the military for parading a former Pakistani Taliban spokesman before television cameras to claim that the militants are bankrolled by Islamabad’s arch-nemesis India.
“With his appearance, the Pakistani Army seemed to be sending this message: You can kill thousands of Pakistanis, but if you later testify that you hate India as much as we do, everything will be forgiven,” Hanif wrote.
“Do we really need to enlist our children’s killers in our campaign against India?”
A note on the blank page clarified the decision to censor the article was taken in Pakistan, and the newspaper “had no role in its removal”.
“While we understand that our publishing partners are sometimes faced with local pressures, we regret and condemn any censorship of our journalism,” a spokeswoman for the New York Times told.