Short Bio of Radio Mullahs in North Western Pakistan

The Individuals, who rode airwaves in the North Western Pakistan used radio as an effective tool to get people support for their imposition of ''Sharia'' (Islamic Law) in Swat and Khyber Agency.  Here is the short bio of those:

Maulana Fazlullah started an illegal local FM channel in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa's Swat Valley in 2006. He preaches forcing vice and virtue and has an anti-Western Jihadi stance. He is considered pro-Taliban and a very powerful figure in the area. Though he considers most communication based electronics as "major sources of sin" he transmits broadcasts of his sermons on an illegal local FM radio channel, hence the nickname "Radio Mullah" or "Maulana Radio".
FM signals are relayed from mobile transmitters mounted on motorcycles and trucks. During nightly broadcasts, prohibited activities are routinely declared and violators' names announced for assassination, which often includes beheading.                                                                                                                        Maulana Fazlullah (born 1974) nicknamed the "Radio Mullah" or "Mullah Radio", is the leader of Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), a banned Pakistani Islamic fundamentalist militant group allied to the Pakistani Taliban, that aims to enforce Sharia in the country. He is sometimes referred to as "chief" of the Swat Taliban and is the son-in-law of the TNSM's founder, Sufi Muhammad. (Source

Mufti Munir Shakir (birthdate unknown) is a religious figure operating in northwestern Pakistan, and the founder of the militant group Lashkar-e-Islam. Shakir worked in Kurram Agency until 2004, when he was ejected by tribal elders following a mosque bombing.
Shakir's fame increased after he moved to Bara tehsil, Khyber Agency, where he established an FM pirate radio station. Using this vehicle, he began to promote his religious beliefs, based in Deobandi theology. Among his more controversial pronouncements was his alleged statement that opium is halal, provided it is produced and used for medical purposes.

Mengal Bagh is said to be a successor of Mufti Munir Shakir, When Shakir was ejected from Khyber Agency, he turned over his radio station to Bagh, a local driver, and Bagh then formed the militant group Lashkar-e-Islam.[3] Nowadays he is somewhere in the Vally of Tera. But members of LeI are still in Bara and areas of Khyber Agency. (Source

                                                                                                       In 2005, Pir Saifur Rahman, a supporter of the more moderate Barelvi school of Islam, established his own FM pirate radio station to compete with Shakir's station. Rivalry between the two clerics increased, causing tribal elders to denounce the two in December 2005 for fomenting sectarian tension. Both clerics then went into hiding, with Shakir handing control of his radio station and Lashkar-e-Islam organization to Mangal Bagh. The hostilities peaked around March 29, 2006, when "hundreds" of Shakir's followers gathered in the Badshahkili neighborhood of Bara tehsil to attack Rahman's followers. (Source

Ansar ul Islam (AI) was founded in June 2006 in the Tirah Valley of Khyber Agency by Qazi Mehboob-ul Haq who also belongs to Deobandi theology but had difference with Lashkar-e-Islam.  It was founded to counter the expansion of Lashkar-e-Islam who believes in strict implementation of Sharia.  Qazi Mehboob-ul-Haq used his pirate radio to counter the ideology of Lashkar-e- Islam and his radio is very famous in the Tirah Valley bordering Afghanistan. (Local Source)

Would Social Media Bring Change To Pakistan’s Tribal Area?

Published in the KUT News----Austin, Texas University.

I read on Facebook recently that the Taliban had attacked the Pakistan Naval Base in the southern part of Karachi. Karachi is Pakistan’s biggest shipping port. As I read the story published by the Express Tribune Newspaper, I saw a Tweet about what was going on in Karachi during the attack. To see a Tweet in the midst of a reported piece was astonishing to me. We have still traditional journalism in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA. It’s very new there, and people don’t really know or understand citizen journalism. They don’t consider it meaningful when it comes to covering breaking news.
The Page of Tehrik-e-Mutaserin chairman in FATA.

We are familiar with SMS (texting) and we use it all the time to share news about what is happening around the area. Say you heard a sound like a blast, and didn’t know what exactly happened, you would send a text to your friend near that location to find out what happened. But you wouldn’t know what happened until you got his reply. This is one-sided communication.

But social media, like Facebook and Twitter, are different because you can follow things as they happen, or you can see the exact time and date someone posted an update.

This technology has not yet reached the FATA. We don’t really have the Internet in general, because we’re short of electricity, and computer and mobile technology are expensive. It’s fair to say that part of the world is without social media. This is probably ironic for the Americans I’ve met in Austin, Texas; they probably don’t remember what it’s like to be without social media.

Right now, in FATA, we depend on cell phones, but it’s not the same as social media. Things are changing, although it is happening slowly. For instance, the cellular companies have begun giving short packages of Internet access for mobile services so users can check and send email. These are specifically used by students, but not the general public yet. Also, in the areas where there is no military operation against the Taliban, it’s easier to get a cell signal and subscribe to the Internet. But in most of the areas that are under operation or surveillance, signals are jammed.

It’s not surprising that young people are engaging in social media. They’re more involved and capable of handling it because they understand what it’s about and think it’s important. If young people in the FATA areas were given the opportunity to use the Internet and social media, think of what could happen! They might even bring about changes like the Arab Spring. Social media has changed the Arab World and brought down dictatorships and bad governance. Why not in the FATA?

In the FATA areas, mobile phones are also used for many other reasons. Like, to play music, watch comedies, see pictures and movies. People keep all this stuff on memory cards, though, because they want to avoid militants who frequently check phones for “illegal” music and videos. Memory cards are small enough you can hide them, and you can keep your data without fear of it being seen by others. If you get searched, you can easily throw away a memory card.

Cell phones, of course, can be traced. So in FATA people are afraid to talk about Taliban and government politics because they worry that their phones are being traced and taped by either one. I don’t know how the Taliban has got this technology to trace people’s phones but they have it. In the case of the government, it’s because security forces probably got it from the US. But who helped the Taliban purchase it?

If social media and the Internet were to come to the FATA, a few things would quickly change. I believe people would begin to express themselves more freely and people would have access to international organizations and news sites and learn for themselves what’s going on in the rest of the world. Many laws – such as the articles of Frontier Crime Regulation (FCR), which is the system of governing the tribal areas -- would become inactive. It will also provide an online meeting place for many activists to work for human rights and legislation. The activists and lawyers who have worked for years to change the FCR would be able to get their message out to more people – especially young people. And they are the people who are going to change things.

Why Fighting Mullah Radio Is Not Easy

Published in Pakistan Express Tribune:                                        
Picture of the Radio Khyber Studio.

It was May 7, 2006 that, as a team, we started transmission of Radio Khyber. It was located within Khyber Agency, one among seven districts of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in the Northwestern part of the country. I started transmitting with a passion to empower local people and give them voices. Voices which had been kept silent since 1901, the day the colonial empire of India promulgated the Frontier Crime Regulation (FCR) in FATA. The FCR was designed by British, who used the region’s own tribal traditions and social psyche to rule ruthlessly over the territory. All of the sections of this law, which to this day are still intact in tribal areas, are authoritarian. One among them was a ban on freedom of expression.

It was ironic for me that even though the ban has never been repealed, the Pakistani government decided to establish four radio stations in FATA. And we journalists were hired -- after years reporting for newspapers.

As the days passed I came to know that the Khyber radio was established to give voice to the government’s activities and developments – not to its people. There was no element of local empowerment. The government was more interested in using the airwaves to fight back against three Mullah Radios, which were at that time broadcasting in the Khyber Agency.

Although we tried to explain that without the buy-in of the local community, there wouldn’t be an audience for Radio Khyber, far less change a whole region’s mind. We argued that what was needed was a way to ensure the station’s credibility for the public – and that was not possible without news and opinion programming. The government was leery - news and views could bring about unrest - disturb law and order - and no local radio stations had been allowed to broadcast local news.

Nafees Afridi is interviewing local tribal on community issue.
Once, a political agent of the Khyber Agency in FATA Secretariat (FATA Secretariat is a body which runs the affairs of tribal areas and appoint political agents to each district of FATA) criticized radio and questioned the outcome of this radio and proposed to shut it down. If a top executive of the tribal district, who has the power of policing and prosecution was not supporting legitimate airwaves and at the same time couldn’t stop illegal firebrand mullah radios, what one could expect other than that to shut it down.

When the person responsible for the radio station tells you there’s no room for local news, how are you supposed to meet your mission of promoting a positive government image? It’s not enough to play music. Also, the hate radio stations banned music, labeling music as Saytan (Devil) work. So if music, in their opinion, is Saytan work and those radio stations still have a large audience, then it doesn’t make sense to fight back by playing music. This is a very basic issue that needs to be addressed.

When those mullah radio stations reported for their followers that the government wanted to modernize tribal women and men on the tip fingers of west by playing music? What happened, they started campaign against gov’t radio. For example, the chief of Lashkar-e-Islam Mangal Bagh twice warned people not to call for radio station because they are promoting vulgarity. But when we started local bulletins—brief news updates -- with the approval of high ranking officer, it went well enough that we had covered the whole military operation in Swat. And the hate radios didn’t have to offer news bulletin and opinion programing to community and therefore, the public turned on to the government station because it was giving fresh news bulletin and news programing. No one threatened us because we were seen as non-biased reporters. Impartiality is the only security guarantee for a journalist in Pakistan. But news bulletins were closed down in March 2010, for security reasons.

The people in FATA are very used to radio broadcasting and they prefer Pashto news bulletins from VOA Pashtu Service, BBC Pashtu, Radio Azadi Afghanistan Pashtu Service, and Radio Mashaal Pashtu. The literate people of FATA also listens BBC Urdu Service, VOA Urdu Service, Voice of Germany Urdu Service, Radio Veritas Asia Urdu Service, Radio China Urdu Service, Radio Tehran Urdu Service and Delhi Radio Pashtu Service.
How could Radio Pakistan compete with that much news broadcasting? If you have a news service that only provides information about the government -- what the President said, what the Prime Minister said and what the Information Minister said – then you are just ignoring community problems. You can’t compete in the tribal areas when there’s so much other, reputable, news broadcasting. The government has lost an important potential audience to Radio Deewa and Radio Mashaal. Those are funded by the US State Department. When I asked Shandi Gul, an office boy who works at Radio Razmak, North Waziristan why he listened Radio Mashaal, his reply was simple: he just wanted to know what was going on in his surroundings. This proves that days of centralized information dissemination has been gone and people are now more concerned about local news.

The total estimated area of FATA is 27,220 km2 (10,509 sq mi). It has been almost covered by foreign radio broadcasters providing news and other programming in the Pashtu and Urdu languages. The expert staffs are drawn from Pakhtun areas, which were earlier neglected in mainstream media of Pakistan, has been putting their head into tribal affairs and also they enjoy respect in their respective communities.

Reporting staff is doing refresher course at University of Peshawar 

The government is fighting a losing battle for the minds of the people in FATA with those four radio stations. One, in Wana, South Waziristan, was closed down in 2009. None of them will ever be successful until and unless local media is allowed to hold accountable the local administration, education, health, agriculture, sericulture, and forestry, public works departments and development projects.

Just talking about patriotism isn’t enough. That doesn’t solve the common man’s problems and if people’s wishes and hopes are not respected now in FATA than they were in the past, then those people will choose to change the dial – and listen to a radio broadcast that does.