Muhammad Bilal Yasir
FM radios have emerged as powerful tools in countering militancy and propaganda in the newly merged tribal areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, gaining significant popularity among the local population. Alongside government-run FM stations, numerous private FM radio stations are actively operating in these regions, providing a wide range of entertainment, information, commentary, dramas, current affairs, sports, culture, health, education, and other essential content in the local language.
In April 2020, the Information Department of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa approved the establishment of radio stations in five newly merged districts, including North Waziristan, South Waziristan, Kurram District, Mohmand District, and Bajaur District. Bajaur District became the first area among these districts to have its own radio station, which commenced regular broadcasting.
Sahil Tanha, an RJ with Pakhtunkhwa Radio Bajaur FM 91.1 for the past two years, highlights that a significant percentage of Bajaur’s population resides in rural areas with limited access to television. However, radios, including those integrated into mobile phones, are widely available. Consequently, radio has remained highly popular in these regions since ancient times. While various programs are organized for the listeners, unfortunately, the government has not allocated any operational expenses or provided remuneration to the daily wage staff members of the radio, leading to their suffering and frustration.
Tahseenullah Khan, a young journalist associated with Radio Pakhtunkhwa for one and a half years, emphasizes the positive impact of Pakhtunkhwa Radio on the people of Bajaur, who greatly appreciate its broadcasting. The radio station has effectively disseminated information during critical events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lumpy Skin Disease outbreak, and floods. However, the government has not released any expenses for the radio’s operations for almost a year. This ongoing delay in payment is disappointing for both the radio staff and the audience.
Fitrat Buneri, the Producer/Managing Director of Pakhtunkhwa Radio Bajaur, acknowledges that initially, the radio functioned under the Radio Project and faced challenges in staff regularization. On January 1, 2022, the radio staff was finally granted permanent status, a significant achievement. However, since then, the finance department has failed to release operational expenses, including remuneration for the RJs and other staff, electricity bills, internet charges, and generator fuel. Despite efforts to address the issue, the radio station continues to face severe difficulties due to outstanding payments.
Buneri emphasizes the crucial role played by Pakhtunkhwa Radio in the tribal districts and highlights that the lack of operational expenses threatens to deprive tribal people of this valuable resource. Assurances from senior department officials regarding pending payments provide some hope for resolution in the near future.
Pakhtunkhwa Radio reaches listeners across the Bajaur district and surrounding areas. Ziauddin Mamoond, a regular listener from Tehsil Mamoond, expressed his disappointment regarding the discontinuation of nighttime radio programming due to fuel and electricity shortages. Mamoond urged the concerned authorities to promptly release the funds necessary to restore the service.
The vital contributions made by FM radios in the tribal areas must not be undermined, and immediate attention is required from the government to ensure the continuity and sustainability of this essential medium of communication.