Pakistan's Interior Ministry ordered the expulsion of the Islamabad bureau chief for The New York Times on the eve of national elections, the newspaper said Friday. The Times protested the move and is seeking his reinstatement.
The ministry did not give any detailed explanation for the expulsion order, which was delivered by police officers in the form of a two-sentence letter to the bureau chief, Declan Walsh, at 12:30 a.m. Thursday local time at his home.
"It is informed that your visa is hereby canceled in view of your undesirable activities," the order stated. "You are therefore advised to leave the country within 72 hours."
The timing of the order meant Mr. Walsh must exit Pakistan on the night of the elections, the first in the country's history in which one elected civilian government completes its term and hands over power to another elected government.
Mr. Walsh, 39, is a veteran correspondent who has lived and worked in Pakistan for nine years, most of it for The Guardian newspaper of Britain. He was hired by Times in January 2012.
Free-press advocates expressed anger, saying the move reinforced Pakistan's reputation as one of the most inhospitable countries for journalists.
"The expulsion of Declan Walsh shows just how much the authorities fear independent media coverage," Bob Dietz, the Asia program coordinator of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said in a statement on the group's website.
According to Reporters Without Borders, an advocacy group based in Paris, Pakistan has been the world's deadliest country for journalists since the start of the year, with six killed in connection with their work.