PRAGUE, Jan 16 The Czech-based and US-funded station Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on Friday said it had launched a new service in Pakistan in an attempt to help undermine militants there.

In a statement RFE/RL said that its Pakistan-based Radio Mashaal “will offer an alternative to the growing number of Islamic extremist radio stations in the region”.

Mashaal means “torch” in both Pashto and Urdu.

The new station offered local and international news with in-depth reports on terrorism, politics, women's issues, and health care, RFE/RL said. It would also feature roundtable discussions and interviews with tribal leaders and local policymakers, plus phone-in shows.

“There is an urgent need for accurate, objective news and information in Pakistan's tribal areas,” Richard Holbrooke, Washington's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, was quoted as saying by RFE/RL.

“Radio Mashaal's commitment to professional journalism in the local language will be an important contribution towards peace, reconciliation and democracy in the region,” Mr Holbrooke said.

RFE/RL, which broadcasts in 28 languages, was founded in the 1950s at the height of the Cold War to beam programmes into the communist bloc. In 1995 it moved across the old Iron Curtain to Prague from Munich, Germany, six years after the collapse of the communist regime in former Czechoslovakia.

It gradually shifted its focus to broadcasting to countries such as Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and the ex-Soviet Caucasus and Central Asia, and more recently to Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran. —AFP

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