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Thursday, June 04, 2009

Mukhtar A Khan: FM mullahs spread the Taliban's word

The best way to fight the illegal broadcasts is to launch local non-Taliban FM stations, possibly housed in the traditional Pashtun hujras (community halls). Ideally, there should be one small and simple FM channel for each village in FATA and the NWFP, operated by respected local people who may handle regional issues with cultural sensitivity. These stations could deal in an interactive way with subject matters like farming, local trade and business, health, education and employment. For women and youth, there could be special programs related to their interests, such as embroidery, child care, folklore, fashion, poetry, comedy, drama, traditional sports and quiz competitions. Once the local people are engaged positively and feel connected and empowered, they will resist any temptation to cause destruction in the name of religion or nationalism. Already some non-Taliban FM channels in both the NWFP and FATA have demonstrated success. In fact, Radio Khyber in the Jamrud area of the Khyber tribal agency has been so popular among the local public that it has almost replaced Mangal Bagh's pro-Taliban FM station. It airs live discussion on issues ranging from politics and education to music and culture. Radio Burraq is another such FM channel which is very popular in Peshawar and Mardan. FM Dilbar is yet another example, headquartered in Charsadda. Even Pakistan's military has established several FM channels, including "Mera Swat" (My Swat) in the Swat Valley, but they remain comparatively unsuccessful because local people want community ownership and local labeling of these channels.


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