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

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.


Empty classrooms as some schools re-open in Indian Kashmir

Updated 19 August 2019

Empty classrooms as some schools re-open in Indian Kashmir

  • The authorities said they were re-opening 190 primary schools in the city yet few children could be seen
  • India on August 5 ended the special constitutional status of Muslim-majority Kashmir

NEW DELHI: Some Kashmir schools re-opened on Monday but were largely empty following weekend clashes in Srinagar, two-weeks after India removed the restive region’s autonomy and imposed a lockdown.
The authorities said they were re-opening 190 primary schools in the city yet few children could be seen at half a dozen places visited by AFP.
Pakistan meanwhile said Indian fire across their de-facto border on Sunday killed two civilians and seriously injured a child, a day after New Delhi said Pakistani fire killed an Indian soldier.
India on August 5 ended the special constitutional status of Muslim-majority Kashmir, where a 30-year-old uprising against Indian rule has killed tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians.
Hours before its move, India severely curtailed movement and shut down phones and the Internet, bringing in tens of thousands of troops to turn the main city of Srinagar into a fortress.
Some 120,000 extra soldiers have been deployed, a security source told AFP, joining around 500,000 already in the northern Himalayan region divided with Pakistan since 1947.
At least 4,000 people have also been detained under the Public Safety Act (PSA), which allows imprisonment for up to two years without charge or trial, government sources said.
“Most of them were flown out of Kashmir because prisons here have run out of capacity,” a local magistrate told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Authorities have declined to comment on the numbers of people behind bars. Those picked up include local politicians, activists, business leaders and lawyers.
Officials said only that the “few preventive detentions” were made to avoid a “breach of the peace,” and that there was “no centralized figure” for the total number.
On Sunday family members held a wake for timber trader Sidiq Khan, 62, who relatives said had died after suffocating from tear gas fired by security forces in Srinagar.
A senior government official told AFP that a man in his mid-60s had died, and that a post-mortem “has not revealed any external or internal marks of injury.”
After some easing in previous days, authorities on Sunday reinforced heavy restrictions after eight people were injured during protests.
The Press Trust of India news agency cited unnamed officials saying there had been clashes in a dozen locations around Srinagar on Saturday.
Around 20 percent of landlines were working on Monday, an AFP reporter said. But mobile phones and the Internet were still cut off.
In Srinagar on Monday most main streets and markets were deserted, although some roads looked busier than in recent days.
Some teachers and administrative staff made it to schools but many others didn’t. PTI also reported that only a handful of children had come.
“We didn’t receive an official notification for re-opening the school from the local government but opened it after watching the news yesterday,” a senior official at Srinagar’s Burn Hall School told AFP.
Many schools stayed shut, with guards at the gate turning away any teachers or administrative staff who turned up.
“I don’t think parents will send their children to school if they can’t communicate and check on them whenever required,” a resident of the Rajbagh area of Srinagar told AFP outside the Presentation Convent School.
“I came here after watching the news yesterday but it doesn’t look like any students have come to school today. There are many other teachers who stay farther away and haven’t made it here,” one of the teachers at a local school told AFP.