SWAT: Opinion-makers and residents trace the three-year stranglehold of militants on Swat to a FM radio station and blame some “unseen powers” for helping the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan to spread their poisonous agenda.
An illegal radio station was set up in 2004 by Mullah Fazlullah, a Taliban leader who had kept a low profile until then. The station aired the religious sermons of a small band of people. Initially, the interpretations of the Holy Quran only carried a tinge of emotion.
Several well-informed people in the Valley believe the illegal broadcasting operation was openly backed by some invisible powers that helped nurture the enterprise.
“There was definitely a strong hand behind the operation which was disturbing the serenity of paradise on earth (Swat),” Fazal Rabi Rahi, a local journalist and analyst tells The Express Tribune. “Even though locals warned the authorities of the consequences of letting the radio venture thrive, no action was taken against it. Rather every hurdle and challenge that came in its way was skillfully cleared.”
Those who started following his directions also regret their decision. “If we knew that Fazlullah would lead us to mayhem, we would never have listened to his sermons or donated a single penny,” a woman from Matta district said ruefully. “We thought he was a true Islamic scholar, teaching religion in a better way but he just exploited us by giving emotional speeches and palming off his own interpretation of Islam,” she confessed.
Wary of people’s interests, he began criticising government policies and exhorting people to violence. This was when the poison began to spread in society, and the situation began to spin out of control.
After a highly successful campaign by the Fazlullah group, law and order was challenged in some parts of the area when people brought their televisions, DVD players, video and audio-tape players to a specified place and burnt them under the supervision of the Fazlullah group.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 7th, 2010.