The U.S. ambassador to Pakistan enraged anti-American critics who accused her of pressuring a newspaper into censoring a fierce opponent of U.S. policy in South Asia.
Ambassador Anne W. Patterson last week wrote a letter to the publisher of the News International to complain that columnist Shireen Mazari spread incorrect information that endangered the life of a U.S. citizen in Pakistan in a recent article. The newspaper’s editor responded by withholding another column by Ms. Mazari, scheduled to run Sept. 2, for a day, while he asked her for comments on the ambassador’s charges.
Meanwhile, Ms. Mazari, one of Pakistan’s most-prominent foreign-policy analysts, held a news conference to accuse the Jang Group, publisher of the News International and other periodicals, of caving to U.S. pressure.
Mrs. Patterson “leveled a serious allegation against me - that of endangering the life of an American citizen. What proof does she have of that from my columns?” Ms. Mazari wrote, after the editorial board of the Jang Group posted its version of the controversy Monday on its Web site (thenews.com.pk).
“My columns discuss issues and do not include any form of incitement,” Ms. Mazari added.
The editorial board defended its decision for a 24-hour delay in Ms. Mazari’s column and said it was surprised that she accused the news operation of censorship, calling her charges “unfounded allegations.”
“We are sorry that she chose to go public with accusations that have no basis in fact,” the editorial board said.
In her column that ran on Sept. 3, Ms. Mazari referred to the “murderous former Vice President Dick Cheney” and claimed that U.S. diplomats are targeting “their critics in Pakistan with a new ferocity.”
Ms. Mazari also accused the U.S. Embassy last year of seeking to “have me either silenced or removed” from her position at the Institute of Strategic Studies, a think tank funded by the Pakistani Foreign Office.
The embassy has apparently issued no comments on the controversy but Tuesday sought to squash a rumor that the United States planned to send 1,000 Marines to guard the U.S. diplomatic compound in Islamabad.
Spokesman Richard Snelsire said Washington plans to increase its Marine guard at the embassy by no more than 20 from the current nine who protect the U.S. mission.
“There is a lot of, frankly, just misinformation out there, and it keeps getting published just over and over by a few journalists,” he told the News International.
On Monday, Ms. Mazari left the Jang Group to join the rival Nawa-i-Waqt Group of Publications as editor of an English-language newspaper, the Nation.
The new ambassador from Nigeria will arrive in Washington to take up his diplomatic duties, while his son lingers in a Baltimore jail on rape charges.
The appointment of Tunde Adeniran, a respected university professor, as ambassador to the United States was supposed to have shown a new sense of diplomatic maturity after last year’s messy scandal involving the former ambassador, Oluwole Rotimi.
However, the arrest of Adedamola Adeniran on Aug. 25 could overshadow his father’s diplomatic duties. The ambassador’s 19-year-old son is accused of raping a woman earlier in August, along with two other Nigerians. The three suspects, who live in Baltimore, are being held without bail, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore prosecutor’s office said Tuesday.
Because his father was not an accredited ambassador at the time of the arrest, the younger Adeniran is not covered by diplomatic immunity.
Last year, Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua sacked Mr. Rotimi, a retired general, after a bitter dispute between Mr. Rotimi and Foreign Minister Ojo Maduekwe.
Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.