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Blog: Pakistan Closes RFE/RL Islamabad Bureau

Pakistani politicians, U.S. officials, press freedom groups, and international organizations are reacting to the news of the closure of RFE/RL's bureau in Islamabad.


Pakistan: Protest of civil society in Peshawar in support of Mashaal Radio on January 25, 2018.

Summary

Pakistan’s Interior Ministry cleared and sealed the offices of RFE/RL's Pashto-language service in Islamabad on January 19, on orders from the country’s spy agency, the ISI, which characterized the broadcaster’s programs as being “against the interests of Pakistan” and aligned with a “hostile intelligence agency’s agenda.” Radio Mashaal, as the service is known locally, is funded by the U.S. Congress with the explicit mission to provide an alternative to extremist propaganda in Pakistan’s Pashto-speaking regions along the border with Afghanistan. Its programs focusing on local communities, women and youth, and promoting education, family health, and nonviolence have earned numerous awards and sizeable audiences, including 10 million views of its content on YouTube last year. The closure comes amid increased bilateral tensions between the United States and Pakistan following Washington’s recent decision to suspend military aid to Islamabad.

On the day of the closure, RFE/RL President Thomas Kent said, “Radio Mashaal serves no intelligence agency or government,” adding “Our reporters are Pakistani citizens who are dedicated to their country and live and raise families in the villages in which they report. We demand that their safety be ensured, and that they be permitted to resume their work without fear or delay.”

The closure of the bureau limits Radio Mashaal’s ability to:

  • Inform citizens of developments affecting them and their communities.
  • Educate citizens, including youth in particular, about nonviolent political solutions and fundamental human rights.
  • Engage citizens in informed discussion and debate over issues that affect them.
  • Bridge differences between citizens and local authorities to solve local problems.
  • Report to global audiences on developments in Pakistan that involve regional security and Pakistan’s international commitments.

Amnesty Urges Pakistan To Resolve 'Hundreds' Of Enforced Disappearances

Pakistan -- Pakistani rights activists hold images of bloggers who have disappeared, during a protest in Lahore, January 12, 2017
Pakistan -- Pakistani rights activists hold images of bloggers who have disappeared, during a protest in Lahore, January 12, 2017

More than 700 reports of disappearances have been received by the United Nations from Pakistan, and hundreds more have been reported to Pakistani authorities, but nobody has ever been held accountable for an enforced disappearance in the country, Amnesty International says.

Read full RFE/RL article here.

Pakistan to ban another US funded Radio Deewa for anti-state shows, reports the Daily Pakistan Global. Months after banning American funded Radio Mashaal for continuously airing anti state shows, the Pakistani government is now planning to mute another radio service for similar reasons.

'University Of Jihad' Gets Public Funds Even As Pakistan Fights Extremism

RFE/RL Central Newsroom journalist Frud Bezhan writes about Pakistan's so-called university of jihad​, which is led by a man who proclaims himself "the father of the Taliban,” and counts some of the world's most notorious terrorists among its alumni.​ It also receives millions of dollars in aid from the government of the restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province along the Pakistan-Afghan border, even as Islamabad carries out a national program to tackle extremism.​

Pakistan -- Religious students attend a lesson at Darul Uloom Haqqania, an Islamic seminary and alma mater of several Taliban leaders, in Akora Khattak, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, September 15, 2013
Pakistan -- Religious students attend a lesson at Darul Uloom Haqqania, an Islamic seminary and alma mater of several Taliban leaders, in Akora Khattak, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, September 15, 2013

Missed it live? Watch RFE/RL Radio Mashaal Senior Editor Daud Khattak discuss Changing Patterns of Extremism and Terrorism in Pakistan at the Wilson Center in Washington on February 7 alongside Professor and Author Madiha Afzal and Professor Stephen Tankel: https://pressroom.rferl.org/a/29026087.html

Current tensions between the United States and Pakistan underscore the problems posed by the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani Network, groups that Washington blames for orchestrating attacks on U.S. troops in Afghanistan from safe havens in Pakistan. However, the story of extremism and terrorism in Pakistan extends well beyond these two groups, and it continues to evolve—even as Pakistan has experienced major reductions in terrorist violence in recent years. This event, which is co-hosted with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, will highlight current developments and perceptions in Pakistan related to extremism and terrorism; examine the role of state and society in radicalization and extremism; discuss possible future trajectories of extremism and terrorism in Pakistan; and consider what this all means for U.S. policy.

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