Taliban ban newspaper sales in North Waziristan; free press in Western Pakistan is in danger; North Waziristan Taliban Shura to meet on Friday
While many in the western press and various governments continue to debate the results of the Waziristan Accord, which turned North Waziristan over to the Taliban and al Qaeda, Pakistani journalists, tribal leaders and local politicians describe the situation in the region as dire.
The Daily Times reports the Taliban have shut all newspapers in North Waziristan after the BBC Urdu division republished a month old story on an attack on a military outpost in Mir Ali. The Taliban stopped the distribution of all newspapers, and burned papers in the streets.
The Taliban rule rule in North Waziristan. The have set up a parallel administration in the region, opened their own offices, established Sharia as the rule of law, recruits, train and arm terrorists to fight in Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda has training camps in the region. Local administrators, journalists and others know who is in charge
…Asked what the administration was doing to enforce the state writ, [administration official in Miranshah] laughed and said: “President Pervez Musharraf says in Islamabad ‘Pakistan first’, but we in Miranshah say ‘our skin first’.”
….”Literally, we are ruled by people who only understand the language of force. There is nothing like government in Miranshah,” said a lecturer of a college who did not wish to be named.
The Daily Times also notes “The Taliban Shura will meet on Friday to discuss the ban on the sale of newspapers.” Local journalists in Miranshah are unsure if the two day old ban will end. Journalists are hinting they may need to practice a form of self-censorship
“We may address a news conference to call on newspaper and news agency editors to be very careful while dealing with stories concerning Waziristan,” a senior journalist told Daily Times… “We don’t want to revisit the situation,” the journalist said. “One has to keep in mind that any story that the Taliban don’t like can cause harm to journalists in Waziristan. Please, take care while publishing reports about Waziristan,” the journalist appealed to editors.
Iqbal Khattak, a Pakistani journalist who has spent time in the tribal areas notes the intimidation of journalists. He recounts an incident with a Taliban commander after the Pakistani government signed a peace agreement with the Taliban in South Waziristan in 2004. Taliban commander Nek Muhammad was furious over the media’s characterization of the agreement. “Let me chop off his head who has reported that I have surrendered to the army,” said Nek. (Nek Muhammad was killed in June of 2004 during what is believed to be a U.S. airstrike.)
The ban on newspapers has had a chilling effect on journalists in North Waziristan, and can directly impact the reliability of the news from the region. The Pakistani press has been crucial in deciphering the state of affairs and the rise of the Taliban and al Qaeda in Western Pakistan. Despite the many problems in Pakistan, a free press is not one of them. Pakistani newspapers such as the Daily Times, Dawn, The Friday Times, The Frontier Post, The Pakistan Observer, The Pak Tribune and a host of newspapers have provided the crucial information to decipher the situation in western Pakistan.