Pakistan: Islamic Pirate Radio Spreads in Tribal Regions
- Illegal radio stations boosting extremism
By Sadia Qasim Shah
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
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
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
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
"Pemra has so far arrested only one local technician for illegally
manufacturing the equipment," sources said.
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