48 died and hundreds homeless – FM Radios responsible for disaster
This is horrific tale of two illegal FM Radio stations causing sectarian violence in Khyber Agency, some 40 kilometers from Peshawar, the capital of NWFP province in Pakistan.
This is horrific tale of two illegal FM Radio stations causing sectarian violence in Khyber Agency, some 40 kilometers from Peshawar, the capital of NWFP province in Pakistan. Khyber Agency is a tribal area, administered by federal government through a political agent. The agency is the most used and popular link towards Afghanistan and Central Asian States. Remote but accessible via road, mountainous, barren, the area is known as heaven for smugglers of all kinds of goods from neighboring states. With very little literacy rate, the local population is usually very religious and comprise hardliners with very strong hold and influence of religious leaders on general public. Since it is tribal area, writ of state is usually weak and people live in their own lifestyle, freely keep arms and ammunitions and due to their nature, very difficult to bring under any rules and laws.
The disaster started when two religious leaders of opposite factions somehow got hold of broadcasting equipment, installed towers, set up basic FM stations illegally and started “PREACHING” their ideologies. Earlier it was only heated debate and counter arguments among each other on both the stations but later it turned into a sectarian issue resulting bloodshed, taking toll of 48 lives so far only in last week. Few children and women were also among dead. It is not only the killings but over last five days, local population has no other way but to leave their homes and run for safety. Both factions used heavy arms, missiles and bombs freely and Pakistan Army had to move against them.
As per an investigative BBC report, there are approximately 90 illegal radio stations working in various religious schools particularly in NWFP. On the front most of these are preaching the religion but in the back within the transmission, these are broadcasting and promoting hatred against opposite sects.
The report informs that there are 26 illegal FM stations in District Swabi, 11 in Charsada, 8 in Buner, 12 in Dir and 28 stations in Tribal Areas. The range of these FM stations is 10-30 kilometers.
It indeed is very unfortunate that how a friendly, useful technology has been used extremely negatively resulting in several deaths. It is important that writ of the government should be established immediately in the area, culprits operating illegal radio stations are charged and a code of conduct for broadcasting should be developed and implemented.
It is extremely important that Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) should immediately formulate and implement a community radio policy. This will help counter illegal radio stations and it will also help to curb the religious propaganda promoting hatred and distrust among people living at one place in one community.