Five FM stations operating illegally
LANDI KOTAL – At least five FM radio stations are operating in Bara tehsil in the Khyber Agency despite warnings by the political administration.
The directives for the closure of the stations were issued by the Fata secretariat in Peshawar and communicated to the quarters concerned by the Bara political authorities some two weeks back.
Of the radio stations, three have been established in Qambarkhel and two in Malikdin Khel area without any legal authority. The writ of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority has not yet been extended to the tribal areas.
While the proponents of the station argue that the FM frequency is being used to impart religious education, their opponents allege that some religious groups are fanning sectarianism through those.
The first such station was established by the activists of a religious group, Tanzim Amr bil Maroof wa Nehi Anil Munkir, more than a year back to broadcast translation of Quranic verses, for which they acquired the services of a religious leader Mufti Munir Shakir. The mufi was expelled from Kurram Agency some time back due to his extreme views against Shias.
The services of Mufti Shakir were later acquired by the Malikdin Khel tribe after he developed differences with the amir of the tanzim, Haji Namdar, and a new FM station was established in Malikdin Khel area.
The Tanzim’s own radio station was forcibly taken over by activists of Shiekhmal Khel tribe after the tanzim and Shiekhmal Khels developed differences over illegal checkpoints established in Qambarkhel area.
The checkpoints were established to collect toll tax from vehicles bringing in smuggled goods from Afghanistan to Bara. Haji Namdar then established another radio station and started delivering speeches through that.
Meanwhile, two more FM stations started functioning in Malikdin Khel and Qambarkhel areas. All those stations were established without the permission of the Khyber Agency political administration or Pemra.
The Khyber Agency administration had turned a blind eye to initial newspaper reports and complaints by local people about the broadcasters’ involvement in a defamation campaign against each other.
Reacting to the government directive, Haji Namdar told Dawn that he would not resist any such move but insisted that the broadcast was only meant for religious education.
Similar views were expressed by Haji Zareef, an elder of Sheikhmal Khel tribe. He, however, accused Haji Namdar of promoting “his own brand of Islam” and spreading sectarianism. He insisted that his station was spreading the message of peace.
Both Haji Zareef and Haji Namdar were instrumental behind a protest campaign against the closure of their radio stations by the students of Kohi Degree College in Bara and the Afridi Students’ Union in the Superior Science College in Peshawar.
The student leaders warned that they would resist any such move and insisted that the authorities issue licences to the stations. Federally Administered Tribal Areas Tehrik-i-Insaf organizer Javed Afridi said the government should also ban the use of loudspeakers. Similar views were expressed by Fata Awami National Party Vice-President Imran Afridi.