PRAGUE: Radio Mashaal, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Pashto-language station continues to broadcast from its Prague headquarters, according to a local English daily.
Radio Mashaal has an approximate audience of 10 million people mainly in Pakistan and Afghanistan but was shut down last week, on the directions of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Interior Ministry due to its programmes being “in line with (a) hostile intelligence agency’s agenda”.
A notification issued by the ministry said that as per an ISI report, the radio programmes were found against the “interests of Pakistan”.
It said that the four main themes of the programmes aired by the service included “portraying Pakistan as a hub of terrorism and safe haven for militant groups, propagating Pakistan as a failed state in terms of providing security to its minorities and Pakhtuns, presenting the Pakhtuns of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Balochistan as being disenchanted with the state, and distorting facts to incite people against state and its institutions”.
The ministry, thus, decided to close down the radio’s regional office in Islamabad and terminate its activities. The Czech-based Radio Free Europe first began its services in FATA in 2010 with the name of Radio Mashaal with an aim of providing “an alternative to the growing number of extremist radio stations in the region”.
Radio Mashaal’s Prague-based senior editor Daud Khattak, while speaking to AFP, said that that he first came to know of the charges through social media and was not informed by any government agent.
He said that some Pakistani TV channels also alleged that Radio Mashaal was “working for the CIA.”
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) was founded in 1950; it currently broadcasts in 25 languages and aims to “serve as a ‘surrogate’ free press in 23 countries where the free flow of information is banned or not fully developed.”
The United States (US) on Friday also urged Pakistan to lift a ban on the radio.
US Department of State spokesperson Heather Nauert said that the ban on Radio Free Europe/ Radio Free Liberty station is concerning for the US. She said that the US has informed the Pakistani government about the concerns and has demanded that the decision should be withdrawn.