87 illegal FM stations in NWFP shut down
PESHAWAR, May 23 2006: Police have shut down 87 FM radio stations which were operating illegally from religious seminaries and mosques in various districts of the NWFP, officials said on May 22.
Law-enforcement officials said they had shut down the radio stations after conducting joint raids with representatives of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) on seminaries and mosques. They said they had earlier told the illegal radio station operators to cease their activities through official notices.
Police have also confiscated the transmitters of the stations.
“It is worth mentioning that there is serious tension among the listeners as well as among the clerics of various mosques and madaris in Swabi district,” a police official said.
‘Jamia Masjid’ or main mosques and Madaris in Charsadda, Nowshera, Mardan, Swabi, Lower Dir and other districts, were running these FM radio stations without obtaining any licence from Pemra. Even one naib nazim in the Daggar Nari village of Karak was operating an FM radio station illegally from his Madrasseh or religious school, police officials said.
Although police officials have been raiding and closing down these illegal stations, the concerned departments seem to be oblivious to the existence of these stations. “We have no knowledge of any FM radio station operating from any mosque or madaris,” an official of the Auqaaf and religious affairs department told Dawn. Home department officials also expressed ignorance about the presence of FM radio stations in the province.
“So far, we have no knowledge of such illegal FM radio stations operating in NWFP districts. If some law and order situation arises due to their activity the police have to inform us,” a senior official of the home department said. Many seminaries and mosques of the province are running their own FM radio stations and transmitting their sermons and views of their school of thought.
The clergy are apparently using FM radio stations for preaching and teaching the Holy Quran and propagating their views on political and social issues, officials said. Pemra is conducting fortnightly raids in liaison with the local police. Its officials say that curbing this illegal activity is a challenge as the FM radio machines can be manufactured by local technicians.
“FM radio transmitters can be manufactured for as little as Rs5,000 and these radio stations start operating again once they are closed by us,Â” said Javed Iqbal, Pemra general manager in the NWFP. “Police and Pemra have closed down 87 illegal FM radio stations in Charsadda, Nowshera, Swabi, Lower Dir and Karak districts only and collected devices used for the purpose with the help of the local police,” said Mr Iqbal.
Earlier, Pemra had said that there were some 62 FM radio channels in settled areas and 49 in the Federally and Provincially administered Tribal Areas(Fata and Pata). Pemra is working in liaison with the police and other intelligence agencies to block the transmissions of these FM radio stations as they are creating a law and order situation and their frequencies are causing security hazards.