On Friday, the Ministry of Interior ordered closure of Radio Mashaal’s office in Islamabad. This move followed recommendations by the country’s premier intelligence agency.
Radio Mashaal is a Pashto-language radio channel which began operations in 2010 from the headquarters of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFERL) in Prague, Czech Republic.
RFERL is funded by the US Congress through defined appropriations. However, during its establishment in 1950 and until 1971, RFERL was funded by the Central Intelligenge Agency (CIA) to counter the spread of Communism. This fact is mentioned on the official website of RFERL itself .
During the period 2002 till 2011, RFERL reached a considerable number of listeners in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, airing programs in various Pashto dialects. These programs not only discussed news and current affairs but also managed part of the United States’ “influence operations” reportedly to prevent the resurgence of extremism .
In his book ‘The Almost Classified Guide to CIA Front Companies, Proprietaries & Contractors’, renowned security analyst Wayne Madsen PhD claimed that CIA used Radio Mashaal’s broadcasts to target Pakistan’s interests. Madsen reveals how Radio Mashaal’s parent broadcaster Radio Free Europe received funding even during and after 1995 from the Hobby Foundation, which itself received hefty donations from the CIA (mentioned in the book at page 308).
There are several reports and broadcasts by Radio Mashaal which give voice to elements which consistently accuse the Pakistani state and its military of allegedly supporting terrorism. One noteworthy example is Abdul Hai Kakar, a former BBC correspondent from Peshawar and longtime Mashaal employee in Prague.
Kakar has not only given excessive coverage to disgruntled politicians and activists who vent their angst against Pakistan in one way or the other; the journalist himself has a very negative and biased view of Pakistan Army. In an interview from October 2012, Abdul Hai Kakar presented himself as the person who brought Malala Yousafzai to spotlight, despite being aware of the threats she would face. He also equated Pakistan Army and the Taliban as being one and the same .
Radio Mashaal has also long been observed giving space to fierce opponents of CPEC such as Dr Said Alam Mahsud of Pakhtunkhwa Ulasi Tehrik. The provision of such airspace for dissident voices against CPEC matches the overall aim of the US government to discredit Chinese geo-economic expansion in Asia which runs counter to Washington’s own models.
Security officials familiar with the developments told that the closure of Mashaal’s office was taken after thorough deliberations and activity reviews.