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.

Sri Lanka casts its vote under shadow of virus

Updated 06 August 2020

Sri Lanka casts its vote under shadow of virus

  • Security crackdown as more than 7,400 candidates contest twice-delayed election

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka went to the polls on Wednesday to elect 225 members to its 9th Parliament amid tight security and health precautions to limit the coronavirus pandemic.

The polls were twice-delayed after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa dissolved the assembly in March and postponed polls scheduled for April due to the outbreak, before finally deciding on Aug. 5 as the date for general elections.

Mahinda Deshapriya, chairman of the Sri Lanka Elections Commission (EC), said police had been given “shooting orders” in case of security breaches and strict health protocols had been introduced at polling booths.

Deshapriya said that all 12,985 polling booths had been sanitized as a preventive measure.

The elections were completed at an estimated cost of $48.6 million, up from the $37.8 million spent during last year’s presidential polls.

Speaking to Arab News on Wednesday, Samuel Ratnajeevan Hoole, an EC member, said that a 60 percent turnout by noon was a “good sign of voters’ response.”

“Our voters are matured and informed now, and they will choose whom they want irrespective of any racial or religious differences,” he said, adding that there were fewer poll-related complaints this year compared with previous elections.

There were 46 registered political parties and 313 independent groups vying for the 225-seat parliament, with a total of 7,452 candidates in the fray – 3,652 fielded by 46 parties and 3,800 representing 313 independent groups.

According to the EC, nearly 16,263,885 registered voters could make their choice at the elections.

At this election, 196 members are to be elected at the district level under the proportional representation system to the 225-member parliament, while 29 members will be chosen from the National List. Under the 1978 constitution, the members are elected to the 9th Parliament.

Dr. Ruwan Wijemuni, general director of health services in Colombo, credited the voters for “lending their cooperation in full to make it a grand success.” At the same time, police spokesman Jaliya Senaratne said there were no reports of violence from any part of the island.

“There were minor scuffles on the eve of the polls in some parts of the island which were settled then and there,” he added.

Ismathul Rahman, 57, from the coastal town of Negombo, told Arab News that this year people were “keen to elect the right people” for their respective electorate as it was “crucial for the country’s economy.”

“It was a peaceful poll without any remarkable incidents of violence. The EC has managed the show well,” said Khalid Farook, 70, former president of the All-Ceylon Young Men’s Muslim Association, Wednesday.