The United States embassy in Pakistan reportedly managed to get the weekly column of a top critic of US policy pulled from the major English-language newspaper in Pakistan “The News International,” following a secret letter from Ambassador Anne Patterson to the newspaper earlier in the week.
The US embassy confirmed sending the letter but would not discuss its content. The newspaper’s editorial team said they were open to publishing the column at a later date, and indeed the article, entitled “Targeting Pakistan and Silencing the Critics” was made available on their website. Still, Pakistani media are saying that the embassy’s ability to block an article it found objectionable from a long-time critic of US policy is a sign of the enormous power the US wields in the nation.
Dr. Shireen Mazari, the author of the article, was interviewed on Iranian state media regarding what she called US censorship, and appeared to be not particularly surprised by the turn of events, though she insisted all the claims she made in the article also appeared in Western media sources, including Deutsche Presse-Agentur. She also vowed to continue her criticism of US policy, insisting “the Americans can’t gag me in my own country.”
Though Ambassador Patterson’s specific objections have not been made public, and she told The News not to publish her letter of complaint, it is widely assumed that Dr. Mazari’s references to Blackwater contractors being used on Pakistani soil was the source of the most vociferous objections.
A member of the opposition Tehreek-e Insaf party, Mazari was the director of a top foreign policy think-tank funded by the Pakistani government, though she was eventually removed from the position after what many in the Pakistani media believe was growing US pressure and warnings from the embassy that so long as she held the position they would treat her comments as official policy.
Following the furore over Dr. Mazari’s column, the Pakistani government officially denied that any Blackwater personnel were in the country, and insisted rules were in place to prevent such a thing happening. The US embassy declined comment, but last month former CIA officials revealed that the company had in fact been providing security on a Pakistani air base from which CIA drones were flown.