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The use of community based radio for promoting terrorism is not a new phenomenon the world has seen. One cannot help but recall the radio messages calling out for ethnic genocide that we know as devastating Darfur War, on whose forefront were the Janjaweed militia.In other conflict near home, Tamil Tiger known for pioneering women suicide bombers too made use of clandestine radio station “Voice of Tigers.”
Inside a turbulent Pakistan, the militant groups like Taliban has been resisting Pakistan Armed Forces and NATO forces for almost last 11 years and no one really knows when there will be an end to this. The TTP and other groups utilized small scale radio stations for radicalizing people in the north west province, for a recap please see Part I.
Haji Namdar, a tribal chief leader that lived for several unaccountable years in Saudi Arabia and returned in 2003 to the Tirah valley in Pakistan’s Khyber Agency. No information is available regarding his activities in Saudi Arabia, how ever he is known to be closely related to Taliban and was a vivid believer in the Salafi segment of Islam. He established a local extremist FM radio station promoting on enforcing laws echoing the Ministry for the Suppression of Vice and the Promotion of Virtue in Taleban-run Afghanistan.
Local analysts say this organization effectively mirrored what the Taleban did in Afghanistan for it won public support by addressing the security deficit and then it shifted focus to introducing a more rigid form of Islam.
Another local tribal chief, Malik Waris Khan condemned these events by declaring Haji Namdar as a”religious terrorist”, the radio station was halted on government orders, but the seeds of tribal rivalry and discord had been sown, effectively.
Those who didn’t agree to this fanatic format, found their leader in another tribal chief Afghani-Pir Saifur Rahman, the Founder of Naqshbandia Saifiya Sufi Order who was arrested during Afghan war and after his release, migrated to Pakistan in Nowshera, however he moved up north on the invitation of the tribal leaders, hence the Saifi order originated. The Saifi are a community associated with the occupation of blacksmith and carpenter and focus on economic empowerment within Muslim populations. His radio station teachings softer and relatively humane infuriated many rising radical elements.
Mufti Munir Shakir
Mufti Shakir, founder of the militant group Lashkar-e-Islam started his radio station against the Afghani Sufi Pir and soon the violence escaled into 2006 tribal conflict that forced the Pir Saif Ur Rehman to move away to Lahore, Punjab province where he died some years ago. The Mufti Shakir group began as an anti-Barelvi sectarian group in 2004 but is an banned terrorist outfit and its radio station recruits followers by propagating their own interpretation of Islam. This group is active and continues to have strong hold in and around Khyber Agency, North.
Despite some key commanders surrendering to Pakistani Army, the banned organization continues to operate. Furthermore its members are unapologetic and uncompromising in their outlook. A local commander said “We believe in terrorism and instilling fear in the hearts of the unbelievers and those Muslims who do not follow the true Islamic way of life.” In 2011, Munir Shakir was arrested but he had already appointed another leader, Mangal Bagh.
He belongs to the smallest of the eight sub-clans of the Afridi tribe and has no formal education but a few years in madrassa as well as he spent some time with a secular political party. Then intriguingly, in less than five years he becomes a militant commander. This is Mangal Bagh, the chief of Lashkar-e-Islam militant group, who virtually ruled Bara tehsil of Khyber Agency until June 2008 when he and his armed vigilantes were driven out in a security operation. He continues to operate from different locations and delivers fiery sermons from illegal radio stations whose location is not traceable, see end for more details.
Mullah Fazlullah on the other hand started off with meager to form his own support base by broadcasting fiery sermons on an illegal FM station from a small village mosque in Swat in 2005 and within two years took complete control in Swat. Under his rule, men in Swat were forced to grow beards, and beheadings and public beatings were routinely carried out against alleged spies, soldiers, and offenders of Fazlullah’s hard-line interpretation of Shari’a.
Ironically his is movement was possible because women of Swat were immensely inspired by his dynamic radio sermons; and mistook it for a respite from the staunchly patriarchal and conservative Pushtun culture. This miscalculation has backfired badly for women rights within Swat and across Pakistan. Swati women donated large amounts of cash and jewelry in response to Fazlullah’s radio sermons broadcast from his mosque in Swat’s Imam Dehri village. But once Fazlullah established control, women suffered greatly. Through his radio teachings he discouraged women from public life, promoted burkas, forced marriages and attempted to shut down or else blow children schools within Swat Valley. During the military offensive of 2009, otherwise known as Operation Rah-e-Rast after failing to make peace with Fazlullah, the Pakistani military pushed him out of Swat in 2009. Until now, he was believed to have operated out of the northeastern Afghan province of Nuristan.
In 2012, Mullah Radio Fazlullah ordered for the attack on the now Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai, teen education activist who was shot by the Taliban.
Militant Radio Stations Broadcasting Content – An overview
Over all fiery radio speeches, radical preachers demand that the all Muslims must adhere to their version of Islam and join their nonsensical jihad. For non-Muslim minorities to pay the protection tax (jaziya) or face death by that jihad. In the same tone, they issue warnings to local non-governmental organizations, musicians and anybody else involved in “un-Islamic” activities.
The Lashkar-i-Islam chief through his recent broadcast also directed women belonging to Abdalkhel tribe to stop collecting firewood in the nearby forest. “A stern action would be taken against the male members of Abdalkhel tribe if their women are found collecting firewood in the nearby hills and forest,” he said. The oppressive tone warnings against consequences are noticed in such sermons for both men and women.
Fm Mullah or as we know him, Maulana Fazlullah programs are based on exclusive coverage of assassinations and beheadings, and his shows “Midnight with Mullah”, “Maulana Mornings”, “Jihad Jockeys” and “Wajib-ul-Qatal Weekends” received soaring ratings as well as critical acclaim.
All in all, most of these illegal radio stations also serve as a command and control center for the various militant militant groups and their fighters. Therefore maintaining their secrecy and security is crucial. Formally the term “ghost radio” is used for these illegal FM stations whose frequency and locations keeps changing so that Pakistan Army are are unable to locate the local operator placements and the media regulatory body PEMRA cannot jam their signals to stop their transmissions.
Stay tuned to The Human Lens for this series’ part iii that will highlight the effects of listening to more then a decade of this sort of radio transmission on local audiences and Pakistan’s up counter terrorism strategy for tackling these illegal destructive radios.