‘ The Online Series on FM Mulla’s & Taliban Insurgency – Part One ‘

Illegal FM radio stations, illiteracy, religion and the governance system introduced in 2001 have aided the growth of Islamic militancy in the Swat Valley, according to the 2010 research report “A Survey of Perceptions about the Drivers of Conflict in Swat” by a Peshawar based Regional Institute of Policy Research and Training (RIPORT).

Khalid Aziz, heads the institute that is looking into certain grave areas of concern that arose after a decades old privatization of media and the “communication boom.” Suddenly number of new media outlets started to grow on a rapid scale across the country, in particular I will talk today about the FM radio stations that have been a strong tool used by the Taliban and militant groups in their anti State agendas. Please see this graph 1.

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Television and Radio Popularity in Pakistan

Over all, radio is the most popular medium in both urban and rural based Pakistan, since its birth in 1947 with state-run Radio Pakistan announcement of the independence of Pakistan on Aug 13, 1947 at 11:59 pm in Urdu, followed by a similar announcement in English. It is considered a running school for media and journalism industry and the love of radio listenership continues till date.

Other crucial reasons include:

  1. Millions of illiterate Pakistanis in rural, impoverished or hard-to-access areas – continue to have very limited news media options therefore radio is a huge source for information dissemination and keeping village based people updated with the current happenings.
  2. Pakistan suffers from acute shortage of power, with 10 – 12 hours power shut down, therefore despite its economic progress, television and print media are still not doable options due to their dependency on electric power. Also in many areas, there are no or very few television cable operators.
  3. The north-west regions and its tribal agencies continue to stay under military conflict, including proxy warfare under Pakistan-US-Afghanistan NATO led agreements, with the TTP, LeT etc groups.
  4. Severe damage of infrastructure, displacement and instability in daily lives have created vulnerable, isolated and challenging odds for populations.
  5. There aren’t many sources of entertainment and information in this region. FM radio is an easy and in some cases the only – option people have.

This is where the Taliban stepped in, to cater this niche of population with their creative imagination bordering on the evil. In Taliban and other militant groups strong presence regions, its is easy to cater to the information starved people by putting a mic in the hands of a radical mullah broadcasting the message of hate and Taliban’s version of entertainment. See graph II for the locations deemed to have been under/ continued strong presence of the Taliban groups.

Taliban Strong Hold Areas in North West Pakistan, source BBC

A poor person just needs a small radio set to reduce his boredom by listening on.

The research report’s in-depth analysis of the Swat Valley’s case with its FM radio stations run by TTP groups, were a timely warning to the government to improve security and provide reforms to deal with the situation in Swat but due to lack of political will, external interference and pro-Taliban sentiment the cycle of death and destruction continues till date.

Taliban Run Radio Stations Propaganda’s

Things continued to go downhill in Swat Valley and soon this menace of illegal radio stations spread across other tribal location including Buner, Waziristan, Charsaddah, Mingora, and so on.

The militants use air waves to broadcast propaganda against their opponents and Western governments. These clerics popularly known as “FM mullahs” condemn everyone and everything that goes against their interpretation of religion.

Illiterate women and men sitting inside their homes in far-flung villages listen on a daily level to conservative sermons on women-related issues and other day-to-day affairs on air. The sermons also promote that discussing women issues like rape and domestic violence etc are not to be discussed because it goes against their imaginations of cultural and Islamic values. Other shows advise men on following a strict code of conduct with their women and to prohibit women from stepping outside homes. These suppressing of women messages are well received by patriarchal and male oriented Pushtun men hailing from village backgrounds.

Another damaging effect of these transmissions is the indoctrination against the anti-polio campaign that led to the failure of national polio campaign. Taliban’s offensive against the polio immunization program highlights the success of TTP and other sectarian militant groups against the involved health workers and security personnel working on giving health care to children. The Taliban run radio stations have time and again issued fatwa against female health workers in Swat and Malakand.

I will highlight two fatwas in particular: 1…. One called the presence of women in public spaces a form of indecency, and instructed that it “was a Muslim man’s duty to kidnap the woman’s health workers when they paid home visits, to marry them forcibly even if they were already married women, or to use them as sexual slaves.” Another similar Taliban decree declared that it was morally illegal for Muslim women to work for wages.

Pakistan Electronic Media and Regulatory Authority

It is not possible that illegal stations can continue to run unchecked without any governing bodies. Established in 2002, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority is independent federal institution responsible for regulating and issuing channel licenses for establishment of the mass-media culture, print and electronic media.

PEMRA’s monitoring reports on illegal radio stations have shed light on extremely grave concerns for human rights issues within the country. Its says that further growing trend of extremism in parts of the NWFP is negating the government’s efforts to portray a soft image of Pakistan abroad. The governing body noted that some 62 illegal FM stations in settled areas while 49 others are being operated from the Federally- Administered Tribal Areas and Provincially-Administered Tribal Areas (Fata and Pata). Almost all are under the control of radical clergymen from Madressahs and mosques.

An under staffed Pemra, has been taking actions against illegal FM operators with the help of the provincial governments. But there are many challenges.. It is impossible to close down illegal FM radio stations because local technicians re-manufacture the equipment for only Rs10,000 or Rs15,000. ($150 – $200)

Last year, the regulatory body’s counter measures include : stopping the illegal up-linking by three channels. PEMRA raided more than 21,000 cable TV operators and 2,803 systems were seized. It also issued penalties worth millions were imposed on TV, radio and cable operators. Nearly 10 illegal FM radio stations preaching hate and extremism were shut down.

To know about the nefarious personalities behind these illegal radio stations and the content analysis of their Broadcasting Content, please keep a lookout for The Human Lens’s part II of the series “Taliban Insurgency|Fiascoes of the FM Mullahs.”

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Disclaimer: This article is not written by ACE NEWS GROUP. The original source of this article can be found here:

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PAKISTANI WOMEN’S DAY: ‘ THE FIGHT CONTINUES SINCE 1983 ‘

On February 12, it was an historic and eventful day in the history of Pakistani women and its observed as “National Women Day” in my country to mark the catastrophic events that took place on 12 February 1983.

This was when we Pakistani women were dismissed as nonentities within the country and under special assistance of so called democratic foreign powers that colluded towards the devastating long term effects on us, events of and around 12 February will never be forgotten by any Pakistani women in her life time.

It was on 12 Febuary 1983 when some 100 Pakistani women activists took out a rally in defiance and against Gen Ziaul Haq’s religio-military dictatorship in the city of Lahore. The women activists defied the military order against public gatherings, to protest Gen. Zia’s anti women laws that upheld the testimony of a male as equal to that of two females in a court of law. Lest we forget, the Law of Evidence was among a series of laws that Gen. Zia imposed in the name of Islam.

All this was done with the supreme model of democratic ally USA, because with this partnership General Zia needed to appear devout Muslim in order to prove his credibility to lead the “nefarious jihad” in Afghanistan. For Washington has propped up Gen. Zia in order to counter the Russians in Afghanistan. Their strategy of turning the Afghan’s war of national liberation into an Islamic jihad or holy war against the “God-less Communists” made Pakistan the front liner state in this nefarious and horrifying war that is still going on in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Today is it not funny to hear ignorant westerners having the gall to inform that my country is a primitive piece of joke, as western hands are also partly instrumental in shaping today’s Pakistan as it is, appalling for women.

Another law imposed by the the military dictator was the Hudood Ordinance, including the Zina (adultery) law that made sex outside marriage a criminal offence, and rape a private offence. So a woman who had been raped had to prove her innocence or be accused of adultery. (Face palming). Now these Wahabi-inspired ideology and legal system that Gen. Zia introduced resulted into sky rocketing number of women inside prisons and these were mainly on girls and women. Some women were whipped, however the higher courts over turned all the sentences of stoning to death that some lower courts prescribed, but Taliban who back then were the “mujahedeen” army of God didn’t prescribe to this and continued to demand their version of Sharia imposition on Afghanistan and Pakistan. That includes stoning and flogging women to death in public, which are in reality Middle Eastern barbaric customs imported forcefully on the South Asian soil.

This battle is far from over today, this is the battle that angers my heart beyond words can describe. I cannot sit and do nothing. And this exactly how the women rights activists felt back then, a group including famous lawyersAsma Jahangir, Shehla Zia and other forwarded a petition to the Lahore High Court Chief Justice as a protest against the discriminatory laws. And then defying military ordinance, 100 of them stepped on the roads, flanked and supported by Habib Jalib, a veterinary Pakistani revolutionary poet, left-wing activist politician who opposed martial law and state oppression. They were attacked by the police with batons and many were beaten including Habib Jalib who perhaps was being given a lesson for his never ending support to women rights cause and Pakistani feminism.

That day women were beaten, and mass arrests took place. But the message since then has remained the same that we the Pakistani women will continue our struggle for rights as equal citizens, and for a society upholds, in theory and practice, its obligations to all citizens.

Today the military dictator who started this has long gone, but the evil forces he unleashed and nurtured have turned into a never ending nightmare for the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Others carried on his work including Gen Musharaf etc who stayed silent as the multiplication of actors including the dangerous Afghan Taliban, Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda and so on.

Today, it is far more important for human rights concerns to separate religion from the state, completely and effectively. For in the name of Islam, these groups attack unarmed civilians particularly women and children, desecrated graves, beheaded innocents and in past two decades undergone expansion of their theatrical war to attack and threaten girls schools and polio campaign in Pakistan.

This is simply not a version of Islam we can accept at any cost and we refuse to surrender by being bullying in name of religion.

We, the Pakistani women resolve to condemn all atrocities of religious extremism, of traditional discrimination against women and minorities, and of all hegemonic forces of women’s oppression.

As we have celebrated Pakistani Women Day, and annually renew our pledge for winning this fight, not just for the sake of Pakistani girls and women, but for our rightful place in the society and world peace order.

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