Pakistan closes US-funded radio station on intelligence agency’s recommendation: Officials

Radio Free Europe Headquarters in Prague, Czech Republic. (File Photo: Reuters)
Updated 20 January 2018
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Pakistan closes US-funded radio station on intelligence agency’s recommendation: Officials

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has shut down an American-funded radio station after it was found to be “against the interest of Pakistan and in line with a hostile intelligence agency’s agenda,” the Interior Ministry said on Friday.
The authorities sealed the office of the Pashto-language Radio Mashaal in Islamabad, two employees of the station told Arab News.
“It has been reported by ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) that Radio Mashaal is an offshoot of Radio Free Europe (RFE) located in Prague, Czech Republic and its regional headquarters is ... (in) Islamabad. The programs aired by Radio Mashaal are found (to be) against the interest of Pakistan and in line with a hostile intelligence agency’s agenda,” an Interior Ministry notification said.
The notification identified programs portraying “Pakistan as a hub of terrorism and safe haven for different militant groups and propagating Pakistan as a failed state in terms of providing security to its people, especially minorities and Pashtoons.”
The order said programs were showing the Pashtoon population of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Balochistan as disenchanted with the state and was “distorting facts (to) incite the target population against the state and its institutions.”
“In the light of ISI recommendations, the competent authority has directed to close the office of Radio Mashaal immediately and necessary action be initiated against it,” the notification said.
Arab News has received a copy of the Interior Ministry’s notification.
The president of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, Tom Kent, called for the re-opening of its Mashaal Radio offices.
“We are extraordinarily concerned by the closure of Radio Mashaal’s office in Islamabad and are urgently seeking more information about the Pakistani authorities’ intentions,” he said in a statement received by Arab News.
“Mashaal is a division of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, a private news organization supported by the US Congress with no connection to the intelligence agencies of any country,” he said.
He said Radio Mashaal was an “essential source of reliable, balanced information for our Pakistani audience. We hope this situation will be resolved without delay.”
The US launched Mashaal Radio in January 2010 from the Czech Republic for the Pashto-speaking people in Pakistan and Afghanistan’s border regions in what it called “an attempt to help undermine militants there.”
The US has another Pashto-language station, Radio “Deewa”, which also focuses on Pashtoon areas in Pakistan. The Voice of America and Radio Azadi also has Pashto broadcasts, mainly for Afghanistan.


Devotees throng Indian flashpoint temple, but no women

Updated 2 min 35 sec ago
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Devotees throng Indian flashpoint temple, but no women

  • India’s Supreme Court ruled in September that all females, including those of menstruating age, could enter the shrine perched in a tiger reserve in the southern state of Kerala
  • Hindu hard-liners clashed with police, assaulted journalists and prevented the court order from being implemented, when the temple reopned

PATHANAMTHITTA, India: Tens of thousands of pilgrims thronged one of Hinduism’s holiest temples in southern India Saturday as it reopened amid high security, but women aged between 10 and 50 were absent despite a court order allowing them to enter.
Hindu activists meanwhile imposed a strike to protest that the security measures were impeding their ability to worship at the Sabarimala shrine, closing shops and reducing traffic to a trickle.
India’s Supreme Court ruled in September that all females, including those of menstruating age, could enter the shrine perched in a tiger reserve in the southern state of Kerala.
But when the temple reopened for several days last month, Hindu hard-liners clashed with police, assaulted journalists and prevented the court order from being implemented.
With thousands of extra riot police on duty and police barricades set up, the hilltop temple reopened late on Friday a day ahead of the start of a Hindu festival period.
Among the several hundred thousand people who have registered to pray at the temple over the coming weeks are around 700 women, setting the stage for a major showdown.
However, no women have yet tried to approach the site ahead of a hearing next week at the Supreme Court of a motion announced late Friday by the board managing the temple site.
It aims to ask the court, likely on Monday, to allow more time to admit women, citing the lack of infrastructure following major floods in August, a spokesman told AFP.
On January 22 the Supreme Court will also hear challenges to its original September ruling, one of a series of recent liberal decisions including the decriminalization of gay sex and of adultery.

One woman who did want to get to Sabarimala on Friday was activist Trupti Desai.
But a crowd of around 500 people staged a sit-in and prevented her from leaving Kochi airport and late Friday she and several women companions flew back to Mumbai, Indian media reported.
“We tried to hire taxis several times but the agitators are not allowing them to take us. They have threatened violence if they do,” Desai told Indian television.
Separately late Friday police arrested another woman, K.P Sasikala, a local community leader, for seeking to defy a ban on spending the night at the temple site.
Sasikala is over 50 so Hindu organizations are not opposed to her entering the site.
Instead they were incensed that restrictions were being imposed on pilgrims and called the local strike for Saturday.
“Hindu community leaders called for the strike and we support it,” P.S Sreedharan Pillai, the local president of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) told AFP.
“The police are putting restrictions on devotees who want to go there and pray,” Pillai added.
A few protesters pelted stones at public buses on the roads in some parts of the state, a Kerala police official told AFP.
Local media reports said about 2,000 protesters gathered around a police station in Pathanamthitta district, 65 kilometers (40 miles) from the temple, where Sasikala was being held.
“Sasikala was detained as the police had instructed that devotees will be not allowed to stay around the temple at night, which she insisted,” Kerala police spokesman Pramod Kumar told AFP.
Women activists say the ban on women between 10 and 50 at Sabarimala reflects an old view that connects menstruation with impurity.
They argue that women are allowed in most Hindu temples and the practice at Sabarimala is part of their tradition, and not anti-women.