In Pakistan, Radio Amplifies Terror of Taliban
By RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr. and PIR ZUBAIR SHAH, NEw York Times, January 25, 2009
PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Every night around 8 o’clock, the terrified residents of Swat, a lush and picturesque valley a hundred miles from three of Pakistan’s most important cities, crowd around their radios. They know that failure to listen and learn might lead to a lashing — or a beheading.
Using a portable radio transmitter, a local Taliban leader, Shah Doran, on most nights outlines newly proscribed “un-Islamic” activities in Swat, like selling DVDs, watching cable television, singing and dancing, criticizing the Taliban, shaving beards and allowing girls to attend school. He also reveals names of people the Taliban have recently killed for violating their decrees — and those they plan to kill.
“They control everything through the radio,” said one Swat resident, who declined to give his name for fear the Taliban might kill him. “Everyone waits for the broadcast.”
International attention remains fixed on the Taliban’s hold on Pakistan’s semiautonomous tribal areas, from where they launch attacks on American forces in Afghanistan. But for Pakistan, the loss of the Swat Valley could prove just as devastating.
Unlike the fringe tribal areas, Swat, a Delaware-size chunk of territory with 1.3 million residents and a rich cultural history, is part of Pakistan proper, within reach of Peshawar, Rawalpindi and Islamabad, the capital.
After more than a year of fighting, virtually all of it is now under Taliban control, marking the militants’ farthest advance eastward into Pakistan’s so-called settled areas, residents and government officials from the region say.
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