Pakistan’s Interior Ministry has ordered the closure of the offices of RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal in Islamabad after Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) agency accused the broadcaster of airing programs “against the interest of Pakistan” and “in line with [a] hostile intelligence agency’s agenda.”
The director of Radio Mashaal, Mohammad Amin Mudaqiq, said Interior Ministry officers arrived at the broadcaster’s Islamabad bureau on January 19 and were meeting with the bureau chief and administrator to discuss the closure order.
The ministry’s order accused Radio Mashaal of “portraying Pakistan [as] a hub of terrorism and [a] safe haven for different militant groups.”
It said Radio Mashaal programming presented Pakistan as a “failed state in terms of providing security to its people,” in particular minorities and ethnic Pashtuns.
It said Radio Mashaal showed ethnic Pashtuns in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, Balochistan Province, and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the border with Afghanistan as “disenchanted with the state.”
It also accused the broadcaster of “distorting facts [to] incite the target population against the state and its institutions.”
RFE/RL President Thomas Kent said he was “extraordinarily concerned by the closure” and was “urgently seeking more information about the Pakistani authorities’ intentions.”
Kent said Radio Mashaal is a “private news organization supported by the U.S. Congress with no connection to the intelligence agencies of any country.”
“Radio Mashaal is an essential source of reliable, balanced information for our Pakistani audience,” Kent said. “We hope this situation will be resolved without delay.”
The closure order was issued after Pakistan’s chief of army staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, said on January 12 that Pakistan feels “betrayed” by U.S. criticism that it is not doing enough to fight terrorism and by Washington’s decision to suspend military aid for Islamabad.
U.S. President Donald Trump on January 1 accused Pakistan of "lies and deceit" and said the United States would suspend up to $1.9 billion a year in military aid until Islamabad moves decisively against Afghan Taliban fighters and Haqqani network militants who he said have found safe haven within Pakistan's borders.