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.


World’s biggest literature festival kicks off in Jaipur

Updated 24 January 2020

World’s biggest literature festival kicks off in Jaipur

  • Economist and Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee will attend the event

JAIPUR: The 13th edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) started on Thursday.

Known as the “greatest literary show on earth,” the five-day event brings to one venue more than 500 speakers of 15 Indian and 35 foreign languages, and over 30 nationalities.

Among the festival’s participants are Nobel laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners.

The event has been expanding, with over 400,000 people attending it last year and even more expected to show up this time.  The growing crowd has made the medieval Diggi Palace, which hosts it, look small, and organizers are planning to shift the event to a bigger venue next year.

Scottish historian and writer William Dalrymple, one of the organizers, said: “The first time we came to the Diggi Palace in 2007, 16 people turned up for the session of which 10 were Japanese tourists who walked out after 10 minutes, as they had come to the wrong place. Things have improved a little since then. We are now formally the largest literature festival in the world.”

Dalrymple, who has extensively written on medieval India and South Asia, has played a pivotal role in promoting the festival.

The other two organizers are its director, Sanjoy K. Roy, and writer Namita Gokhale, who along with Dalrymple made the JLF become one of the most sought-after events in India.

“Why has the literary festival taken off in this country in this extraordinary way? It goes back to the tradition of spoken literature, the celebration of literature orally through the spoken word has deep roots in this country,” Dalrymple said.

“So the idea that a literary festival is a foreign import is something that can’t be maintained. We’ve tapped into something very deep here. Literature is alive and is loved in India,” he said.

Inaugurating the festival’s 13th edition, celebrated British mathematician Marcus du Sautoy said: “Every number has its own particular character in the story of mathematics. For me it is 13; 13 is a prime number, an indivisible number, and the JLF is certainly a festival in its prime.”

The festival this year is taking place amid a raging debate about India’s new citizenship legislation and mass agitation on the issue of preserving the secular fabric of the nation.

Reflecting on the prevailing mood in the country, Roy, in his opening remarks, said: “We are now faced with a situation where we see a spread of the narrative of hatred. Literature is the one thing that can push back against it and so can be the arts. All of us have a responsibility to do so and this is not the time to be silent anymore.”

Gokhale said: “Ever since its inception 13 years ago, we at the Jaipur Literary Festival have tried to give a voice to our plural and multilingual culture. We live in a nation which is defined by its diversity, and it is our effort to present a range of perspectives, opinions, and points of view, which together build up a cross-section of current thinking.”

She added: “We seek mutual respect and understanding in our panels — it is important to us that these often conflicting ideas are respectfully presented and heard. We also resist predictable and self-important all-male panels, and try to ensure that the vital voices of women resonate through all aspects of our programming.”

One of the attractions of the event this year is the presence of Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee, who won the prize in economics last year.

There are also panel discussions on Kashmir, the Indian constitution and history.

The prevailing political situation in South Asia is also reflected by the absence of Pakistani. Before, popular Pakistani authors would attend the JLF, but delays in visa issuance and a hostile domestic environment forced the organizers to “desist from extending invitations.”