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Pakistan: What Can’t Be Said

In response to:

Pakistan: Worse Than We Knew from the June 5, 2014 issue

To the Editors:

In his review of my book The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001–2014 [NYR, June 5], I could only smile when Ahmed Rashid mentions his own three works on the region before turning to the book he is supposed to be reviewing.

But Mr. Rashid is a brave man to review my book. At least one writer declined the commission, so poisonous is the atmosphere now in Pakistan for anyone who dares criticize the military and the intelligence agencies. Pakistani journalists who cross the line work under a double threat from Taliban sympathizers and members of the intelligence agencies. Two senior television reporters, Raza Rumi and Hamid Mir, have narrowly escaped assassination attempts recently for tackling such taboos on air. Less prominent journalists have been beaten, threatened, and killed.

Mr. Rashid dares agree with much of the premise of my book, which exposes the treacherous double game played by the Pakistani military establishment in taking American money to fight terrorism while continuing to support the Taliban and other Islamic extremist groups as part of an expansionist foreign policy. He too warns that Islamist extremism is infecting the entire region of Central Asia.

Yet the reader should be aware that a Pakistani journalist can only go so far. Mr. Rashid writes that my evidence that senior ISI and military officials knew of Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts is not wholly plausible, and my assertion that the ISI ran a special desk to handle bin Laden “flimsy.” I am sure he knows that after twenty-five years visiting Pakistan, and twelve years reporting in the AfPak region, I would not make such a claim without being very sure of well-tested, long-standing sources, and that to protect those sources, I have had to leave certain things unsaid.

Carlotta Gall
North Africa Correspondent
The New York Times
Tunis, Tunisia