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Deported journalist 'uncovered collusion'

Deported journalist 'uncovered collusion'

Author:
Publication: BBC News
Date: November 12, 2001

A British journalist who was deported from Pakistan at the weekend says she believes the action may have been triggered by her discovery of collusion between some Pakistani army officers and the Taleban.

Sunday Telegraph reporter Christina Lamb said authorities which deported her gave no explanation and detained her for 18 hours without food. She told BBC News Online she was kept in the dark about why she and photographer Justin Sutcliffe were sent home from Islamabad on Saturday.

The pair had been detained by Pakistani authorities since the early hours on Friday in the border city of Quetta. Miss Lamb, 35, said they were woken in their hotel in the middle of the night by five members of the military intelligence and two police officers.

She said they were driven to a railway rest room and then flown to Islamabad, but not allowed to sleep, eat or make contact with Britain until they were sent home the next day.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has expressed concern about the deportation and plans to stay in contact with Miss Lamb about any further representations to Pakistan.

Miss Lamb said she had uncovered evidence of a covert operation by rogue elements in the Pakistani military intelligence service to smuggle arms to the Taleban. But the deportation order vaguely described the reason as "acting in a manner prejudicial to the external affairs and security of Pakistan".

Miss Lamb said: "It's a matter of huge concern that a country we are in alliance with in fighting for freedom, is treating people in such a barbaric manner.

"To deport people without giving them any chance to answer any charge that they are supposed to have done is incredibly frustrating."

The Sunday Telegraph is planning legal action against Pakistani newspapers that recently claimed the pair had booked an airline ticket from Quetta in the name of Osama Bin Laden. Miss Lamb, who has a two-year-old son called Lorenzo, said that was not true and related to a throwaway remark she made to a travel agent who said she could book a flight under a false name.

She said she thought the airline ticket stories, which accused her of trying to prove Bin Laden was in Pakistan, were the pretext for the deportation. Her son and boyfriend in Portugal were worried about her safety after they were told by the hotel she had checked out in the middle of the night.

Miss Lamb, who has been reporting in Pakistan since 1987, said her detention was very frightening and made her feel like a criminal. She said she thought it was probably the result of her investigations into the allegedly pro-Taleban actions of the Pakistani military intelligence.

Miss Lamb told BBC News Online: "Even the spokesman for President Musharraf was shocked to hear about our experience and other senior government officials knew nothing about it.

"This begs the question 'Is he really in control of the military intelligence and who is actually running the country?'"

Sunday Telegraph editor Dominic Lawson said: "We have been given no reason for the deportations beyond the vaguest generalities. "Christina was simply carrying out her duties as a journalist."

Labour rebel MP Paul Marsden was on a fact-finding mission in Pakistan when Miss Lamb was detained. She said he helped to raise the alarm about her plight and may have helped secure her freedom. Miss Lamb said she wanted to return to Pakistan to continue her work as soon as possible.
 


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