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Pakistan: Islamic Pirate Radio Spreads in Tribal Regions

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    Illegal radio stations boosting extremism By Sadia Qasim Shah http://www.dawn.com/cgi-bin/dina.pl?file=local31.htm&date=20060516 PESHAWAR, May 15: Illegal FM
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 1, 2006
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      Illegal radio stations boosting extremism
      By Sadia Qasim Shah
      http://www.dawn.com/cgi-bin/dina.pl?file=local31.htm&date=20060516


      PESHAWAR, May 15: Illegal FM radio stations, mostly run by clerics,
      fuelling extremist views about women's rights and reinforcing
      conservative social values and extremism in many districts in the
      Frontier province.

      According to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority
      (Pemra), there are 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 illegal FM radio stations are run by clergymen from
      Madressahs and mosques," officials said.

      Most of the FM radio stations were being run by clergymen, propagating
      controversial views in their `Dars-i-Quran'. These clerics also give
      sermons on women-related issues and other day-to-day affairs on air,
      officials and local listeners said.

      "Women's problems must not be discussed publicly on radio. It goes
      against our cultural values," said a resident of Dir district.

      But these illegal FM radio stations were heard "appealing" to their
      audiences to discuss their problems. According to listeners, these
      radio stations "receive letters and people even discuss their problems
      by making telephone calls" to the people running these radio stations.

      "Women in rural areas are mostly restricted to their homes and do not
      care much about their rights but despite this, they are the target of
      sermons transmitted by these FM radios. The sermons convey nothing but
      conservative ideas," said a resident of Upper Dir, a conservative
      district with many illegal FM radio stations.

      Several of the illegal radio stations were operating from various
      seminaries and mosques in Wari, Usheri Darra, Jabar and Barawal Banday
      areas while a women's madressah in Upper Dir was transmitting sermons
      on issues ranging from jihad to day-to-day problems of women, a local
      resident told this correspondent.

      "Once, an FM radio station indoctrinated people against the anti-polio
      campaign that led to an attack on a polio vaccinator. The clerics, who
      operates the FM stations, say that they are just preaching
      `Dars-i-Quran' but they cannot help speaking up against the United
      States or promote jihad and local religious political leaders," a
      resident of Dir said.

      Rakhshinda Naz, a women's rights activist, said that everyone had a
      right to preach his views and no one could put a check on it.

      She said that if Pemra could not shut down these radio stations, it
      should issue licenses to run legal radio channels for propagating
      progressive ideas to counter the ultraorthodox views propagated by
      these illegal FM radio stations.

      Illegal FM radio stations operated by two clerics belonging to
      different schools of thought — Mufti Munir Shakir and Pir Saifur
      Rehman — created a law and order situation in the Khyber agency.

      Sources said that illegal FM radio stations were not restricted to
      conservative tribal areas, adding that the phenomenon was spreading
      fast to settled areas.

      According to data gathered by the NWFP chapter of the Human Rights
      Commission of Pakistan, there were some 67 illegal FM radio stations
      operating in Upper and Lower Dir, Swat, Malakand, Buner, Shangla and
      Swabi.

      AN HRCP official said that the growing trend of extremism in parts of
      the NWFP was negating the government's efforts to portray a soft image
      of Pakistan abroad.

      There have been incidents of torching CDs and television sets in Swat
      and Tank districts, indicating that extremists were taking hold of
      affairs in these areas.

      The clerics were prpopagating political ideas in the name of Islam
      while banned organisations, like the Tehrik Nifaz-i-Shariat Muhammadi,
      fuelling jihad and preaching against the US policies on their illegal
      FM radio stations, an HRCP activist and a resident of Dir said.

      Pemra's spokesperson Mohammad Salim told this correspondent from
      Islamabad that the trend of setting up FM radio station in seminaries
      and mosques existed only in the NWFP. He also said that Pemra had
      raided and closed down 17 of the 28 illegal FM radio stations in Swabi
      district alone.

      Pemra, he said, was taking action against illegal FM operators with
      the help of the provincial government. The reason it was difficult to
      completely close down all illegal FM radio stations was that local
      technicians could manufacture the equipment for only Rs10,000 or Rs15,000.

      The number of illegal FM radio stations operating in Peshawar was one
      while there were 11 in Chrasadda, four in Mardan, 28 in Swabi, 13 in
      Buner, four in Hangu, one in Karak, two in Mansehra and two in
      Batagram. In Pata, there were eight FM stations in the Lower Dir while
      three more were operating in the Upper Dir, 14 in Malakand and six in
      Swat.

      "Pemra has so far arrested only one local technician for illegally
      manufacturing the equipment," sources said.

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