Experiencing Pakistan through the lens of journalist Declan Walsh at Bangalore Lit Fest

Declan Walsh has recently published the book, The Nine Lives of Pakistan - Dispatches from a Precarious State.
Declan Walsh joining Bangalore Lit Fest
Declan Walsh joining Bangalore Lit Fest

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 “undesirable activities”, 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 ‘false journalism’ against Pakistan and ‘defamatory pieces’ against the country; and for visiting troubled areas in the country without a clearance.

Walsh told Neena, “The 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.”

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 “sensitive” stories, he alleged. His privilege as a foreign journalist lasted only a while until his expulsion.

Per the book’s description on Amazon, The Nine Lives of Pakistan - Dispatches from a Precarious State is an “electrifying 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.”

Asma Jahangir, a human rights activist and lawyer, was one among the nine lives that Walsh wrote about in his book. Declan said, “Asma 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.”

Declan ended the session on a hopeful note. “Despite 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.”

Declan Walsh has previously also published a book titled Insh’Allah: A Journey Through Modern Pakistan, in 2010.

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