ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Friday closed down the operations of US-funded Pashto language Radio Mashaal that was launched as counter-narrative to local broadcasts by militants in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Radio Mashaal has been shut down on the recommendations of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

A notification issued in this regard by the interior ministry refers to an ISI report which says the programmes aired by Radio Mashaal are found to be against the interest of Pakistan and in line with the agenda of a hostile intelligence agency.

The notification states that the four main themes of the programmes aired by Radio Mashaal are “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, showing Pakhtun population of KP/Fata and Balochistan as being disenchanted with the state, and distorting facts to incite people against state and its institutions”. The notification says Radio Mashaal is an offshoot of Radio Free Europe (RFE) based in Prague, Czech Republic.

The interior ministry closed down the bureau office of Radio Mashaal in Islamabad and terminated its services.

With the strength of 17 editorial staff based in Islamabad, KP, Fata and Balochistan, Mashaal Radio is the only radio service broadcasting its voice in Fata and some remote areas of Balochistan.

Initially it launched its service in Fata in 2010 with the aim of providing an alternative to the growing number of extremist radio stations in the region.

Though the militant radios were closed down in various military operations, there was no alternative voice for the audience. Radio Mashaal was launched by the RFE initially with the cooperation of Voice of America.

Meanwhile, RFE Pres­ident Tom Kent said in a statement Radio Mashaal had no connection with the intelligence agency of any country. “Radio Mashaal is an essential source of reliable, balanced information for our Pakistani audience. We hope this situation will be resolved without delay,” he said.

The website of the RFE says its corporate office is in Washington DC and the project is funded by the US Congress.

Published in Dawn, January 20th, 2018

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