Taliban rule the roost in Swat through FM radio
PESHAWAR: Most people in Swat are becoming regular listeners of the FM radio channel run by the Maulana Fazlullah-led Swati Taliban as they want to know about new threats or decrees issued by the militants.
The nighttime broadcasts are also heard in certain areas outside Swat district. This has enabled the Taliban to spread their influence in parts of Upper Dir and Lower Dir districts and Malakand Agency and order people around in those places.
On Sunday, a man named Karimullah in Ouch Gharbi village near Chakdarra in Lower Dir district was quoted as saying in a newspaper report that he has stopped handing out “Taweez” or amulets to the needy following a warning given to him by Maulana Fazlullah’s deputy Maulana Shah Dauran on the FM radio. Henceforth, Karimullah said he would do farming to earn his livelihood and never indulge in any ‘un-Islamic’ act.
At 8 pm every night, Maulana Shah Dauran begins his daily broadcasts by reciting the holy Quran with translation and interpretation in Pashto. For the next two to two-and-a-half hours, he speaks on a variety of topics, making announcements about Swat Taliban Shura decisions, providing information about the day’s events and militants’ attacks, and issuing threats to all those violating Taliban decrees.
Shah Dauran, who belongs to Qambar village near Swat’s biggest city, Mingora, has been doing his nightly radio show now for several months. He is a regular and has seldom missed his show. He is known to use harsh language against political opponents, government functionaries and those adjudged as criminals by him and Taliban Shura. The names of those in power are mentioned in a derisive manner and fun is made of some of their actions and pronouncements.
The FM radio is obviously illegal but it continues to operate every night. Sometimes, the authorities try to block its broadcasts but the radio is back on air after a while. Shah Dauran attributes this to Allah’s help for Taliban and tells his listeners that their FM radio broadcasts cannot be blocked as alternate arrangements were in place to continue broadcasting.
Shah Dauran recently announced that his voice on the FM radio could be heard in Karo Darra and Nihag Darra, two valleys in Upper Dir district, in Chakdarra in Lower Dir, and in most of Malakand Agency.
His leader Maulana Fazlullah broadcasts his show on another FM radio channel that is heard around the same time every night in upper parts of Swat including Matta, Khwazakhela, Madyan, Bahrain and Kalam. Unlike Shah Dauran’s harsh tone, Fazlullah is said to be polite in his broadcasts.
The 33-year-old Fazlullah, it may be added, came to be known as Mullah radio when he started out as a preacher initially a few years ago and then politicised his agenda. The use of the FM radio gave him recognition and made him an influential cleric in Swat. Subsequently, he raised an armed force and then took on the government.
Seeking donations for their group and its projects, including the huge mosque and madrassa built in Fazlullah’s village, Mamdheri, and announcing the names or village of donors had been an important segment of the programming done by his FM radio in the past. This practice has continued in the broadcasts made by the two FM Radio channels but now the donors’ names aren’t announced. Only the total figure of donations that Taliban claim residents of a certain village have made are announced and the donors are praised for contributing to a worthy cause.
Often, Shah Dauran mentions that complaints have been received about some government employee not performing his duty or civic services being inadequate. He mentions the names of these employees and warns them to mend their ways. The next day those employees strive to perform their work efficiently and some approach Taliban commanders to clarify their position.
Such is the fear of the Swati Taliban that persons blamed on the FM Radio for selling drugs or liquor hasten to give up the business or rush to acquaintances having links with Taliban to help them clear their name. Policemen have been quitting jobs and placing advertisements in local newspapers in Swat to announce their decision. Those handing out amulets or doing other jobs declared un-Islamic by Taliban also make it a point to publicly abandon their profession and seek forgiveness.
Shah Dauran also uses the radio to claim responsibility for Taliban attacks. On December 28, he claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing that killed 44 people, all civilians except two policemen and a government employee, at a polling station in Shalbandai village in Buner district. On another occasion, he proudly announced that Taliban had killed a female dancer, Shabana, in Mingora. Recently, he announced that anyone in Swat found using the new coins carrying Benazir Bhutto’s image would be punished.
Swatis who listen to Shah Dauran’s broadcasts said they do so because they never know their names or those of their family members may be announced for being in violation of some Taliban decree. “To survive in Taliban-ruled Swat, we need to know about decisions being made by the Taliban Shura,” argued a man who for obvious reasons requested anonymity.
Source: The News