Periodicals glorifying Taliban militants and their war in Afghanistan continue to be circulated through Pakistan Post and sold at newsstands, though such literature has been banned, The Express Tribune has learnt.
Among the widely-circulated magazines are the weekly Zarb-i-Momin and weekly Ahle Hadith. The Home Department banned both of these in 2007 when Khusro Pervaiz was home secretary sending instructions to the Post Master General not to deliver them to subscribers, said sources in the department. Since then, there has been no action by the government to stop hate literature.
Jaish-i-Muhammad’s weekly Al-Qalam and Jamaatud Dawa’s weekly Ghazwa are also banned, but the former can be seen at news stalls while JD volunteers distribute copies of the latter in markets and bazaars.
A more recent periodical is Nawa-i-Afghan Jihad, a monthly magazine that has been publishing Taliban propaganda about the war in Afghanistan for three years. According to the February issue of Nawa-i-Afghan Jihad, from December 16 to January 15, Taliban fighters killed 1,007 American soldiers and 612 Afghan soldiers, and destroyed 75 oil tankers and trucks, 236 tanks and armoured vehicles, 147 vehicles and a helicopter. The US Army says it has lost 20 American soldiers in Afghanistan in this period.
The magazine used to regularly carry messages from Osama bin Laden, who it described as ‘leader of the Muslim Ummah’. It publishes articles praising Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar and attacks on Nato supply lines and Afghan military checkpoints. The 56-page magazine does not fulfil the legal requirement of having a print line, which is supposed to identify its publisher, editor and printer. A cleric at a famous Deobandi madrassa in Shahdara, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that he and others got NAJ and other “Islamic” magazines printed in the Urdu Bazaar and circulated them through the post at a subsidised rate for periodicals.
The aim of such publications is to enlist young people to their cause and solicit donations. “This material influences the minds of lot of people who think that reading it is their duty. It spreads intolerance, hatred and violence,” said Lt Gen (retd) Talat Masood, a defence analyst.
Post Master General (Central Punjab) Nasir Hasan told The Express Tribune that the post office had been directed by the Home Department to stop the delivery of Zarb-i-Momin and Ahle Hadith, but there were no directions to cease the circulation of any other periodical, including NAJ.
He said that post office officials were not allowed to open any packages or material to monitor the mail, unless they were given specific instructions to stop a particular package or envelope. There is no system to scan domestic mail, he said.
Hasan said that the only time he recalled finding hate material was when a whole sack of it was discovered at one post office. Even then, the sectarian and anti-state literature they found had been thrown over a wall and onto the office’s property from outside and not actually sent through the mail.
An official of the Special Branch told The Express Tribune on the condition of anonymity that Special Branch men used to be deployed at post offices to monitor who was subscribing to hate literature, but they were withdrawn about four years ago “for reasons best known to the high-ups”. He said that the withdrawal happened after they did an operation in which they sent money and other valuable material through the mail as a test of post office officials. Several officials were suspended after much of the cash and valuables went missing.
The state has put visibly less stress on curbing local extremist groups and hate literature since the change of government in early 2008. Shortly after the end of the previous regime, banned groups started collecting funds and hides of sacrificial animals and holding demonstrations. Jamaatud Dawa and Hizbut Tahrir have held public gatherings and processions on the city’s biggest roads, including The Mall and Gulberg’s Main Boulevard. The current government has also not issued any directions to stop any magazine or newspaper with a pro-militancy message.
Masood, the defence analyst, agreed that banned outfits had been more visible under the new government. “The responsibility lies with the provincial government, which is oblivious of the situation or has given tacit approval to the extremists,” he said. Punjab government spokesman Senator Pervez Rasheed insisted that the provincial administration was keeping a close eye on the printing and circulation of hate material. “We take prompt action when we find any information about such material,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 23rd, 2011.