The Bangalore Lit Fest kicked off on Saturday in the city, with many of the panels and sessions going virtual, in line with precautions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. In one of the sessions, Irish journalist Declan Walsh, formerly bureau chief for Pakistan for the New York Times, spoke about his experience in the country and his recently published title The Nine Lives of Pakistan - Dispatches from a Precarious State.
Neena Gopal, the resident editor for Deccan Chronicle and the moderator for the session, asked Walsh to elaborate on his book and how his expulsion from Pakistan affected the narrative. It is known that Walsh was expelled from Pakistan in 2013 after his visa was cancelled over unspecified âundesirable activitiesâ, and he was given no further explanation, despite requests for the same. According to an intelligence report at the time, Walsh was reportedly expelled for âfalse journalismâ against Pakistan and âdefamatory piecesâ against the country; and for visiting troubled areas in the country without a clearance.
Walsh told Neena, âThe story of the book personally began for me after my expulsion which was right before the 2013 elections. The book is my attempt at revisiting this country I was involved with for almost a decade by then and my experiences there.â
Declan, who has also worked with The Guardian, recalled that against the backdrop of hostile political climate caused by movements like Azad Kashmir, and insurgency of Balochistan, travelling within the country had become difficult. The establishment tried to curtail publishing of âsensitiveâ stories, he alleged. His privilege as a foreign journalist lasted only a while until his expulsion.
Per the bookâs description on Amazon, The Nine Lives of Pakistan - Dispatches from a Precarious State is an âelectrifying portrait of Pakistan over a tumultuous decade that captures the sweep of this strange, wondrous, and benighted country through the dramatic lives of nine fascinating individuals.â
Asma Jahangir, a human rights activist and lawyer, was one among the nine lives that Walsh wrote about in his book. Declan said, âAsma was undeniably one of the most dazzling people I met. Certainly, she came from the elite part of the society, however, she used her privilege to fight against injustice and discrimination.â
Declan ended the session on a hopeful note. âDespite multiple disturbing trends of extremism rising, the youth there (in Pakistan) have a very different perception of what they want and they are rebelling, participating in the political affairs and trying to bring a change.â
Declan Walsh has previously also published a book titled InshâAllah: A Journey Through Modern Pakistan, in 2010.