Ghag Radio spreading peace, tolerance in Pashtun society

By Adeel Saeed

Ghag Radio volunteer staff broadcast a programme January 30. Ghag Radio strives to promote peace and tolerance by highlighting the rich cultural values of Pashtun society. [Adeel Saeed]

Ghag Radio volunteer staff broadcast a programme January 30. Ghag Radio strives to promote peace and tolerance by highlighting the rich cultural values of Pashtun society. [Adeel Saeed]

PESHAWAR -- Ghag Radio is striving to promote peace and tolerance in Pashtun society, reeling from the effects of terrorism, violence and extremism.

"We are airing programmes that ... inform people about the rich moral values of dwellers of the region who were famous across the world for their traits of hospitality, tolerance, bravery, respect and fraternity," said Zalan Moomand, deputy director of Peshawar-based Baacha Khan Trust and Research Centre and head of Ghag Radio.

"Ghag Radio highlights the true historical, cultural and traditional values of Pashtun society with the objective of reminding the people that we are not violent or fundamentalist," he told Pakistan Forward.

The radio show aims to counter the negative narrative about Pashtuns whose image has been tarnished by a handful of extremist elements, he said.

Ghag Radio, Web-based and non-partisan, is the initiative of the Baacha Khan Trust and Research Centre. It was launched in January 2016 to serve as the "Voice of Pashtuns", Zalan said.

"We want to educate and enlighten people by highlighting the importance of our cultural and literary norms like hujra [male social gatherings], jirga [consultation meetings], traditional rabab music gatherings, etc.," he said.

"We want to tell to the world that inhabitants of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Afghanistan are not violent but are peaceful, aesthetic, loving, highly hospitable and tolerant," he said.

Pashtuns tune in

"The response to Ghag Radio is very encouraging," said Mushtaq Yousafzai, a Peshawar-based senior journalist and programme manager of Ghag Radio.

"A number of volunteers who have become part of our team convey a message of peace and tolerance through their poetry, literature and radio programmes," he told Pakistan Forward.

Ghag Radio is available only on Facebook. Thousands of listeners and viewers tune in, and the Radio Ghag Facebook page has more than 9,000 followers, Mushtaq said.

"We also plan to create a Web page in the future and turn it into a TV channel," he said.

The entire Ghag Radio staff works on a voluntary basis "with a spirit of restoring the historic values that have prevailed in this society", said Shahzad Yousafzai, a producer at Ghag Radio.

"People are listening to our programmes and appreciating the ideas and the initiative," he told Pakistan Forward, adding that they receive encouraging messages from listeners via Facebook and e-mail.

For example, listeners tune in to hear "audio books" from politicians, literary figures, reformists and intellectuals who read from their books in a broadcasted series, he said.

"Ghag Radio is providing a good opportunity to budding young poets and writers to present their work and receive feedback," said Yashir Ali Shah Yasir, a Ph.D. scholar in Pashtu language from University of Peshawar.

Yasir said he is a regular listener and follower of Ghag Radio and considers it an excellent initiative that is helping to enlighten Pashtuns.

"Ghag Radio is effectively educating its audience and helping people to understand the true moral values of this region and realise the fact that we are peace-loving people," he told Pakistan Forward.

Countering extremism

Aqeel Yousafzai, a senior Peshawar journalist and author with special focus on regional security issues, expressed appreciation for the idea and spirit behind Ghag Radio.

"Pashtuns need such an endeavor through which their real and soft image is portrayed," he told Pakistan Forward.

"The decade-long wave of militancy and violence in KP and FATA has not only damaged the lives of the people but also created an impression that the people of this area are extremists," he said.

Web radio can reach an audience around the world, and Ghag Radio "can play a very effective role by spreading its message to every nook and corner", he said, encouraging the government to support the initiative.

"Every progressive person would like to support such an initiative because we want to remove the blemish [of extremism] on our society," he said.

"We want to tell to the world that Pashtuns are not extremists or violent, but in fact they want peace, love, affection and brotherhood," he said. "Our history is testimony to our desire," Aqeel said.

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Salam , i must say that this is an effort worth huge appreciation. i am really impressed by the efforts of Zalan Momand sb. i kow when he does something that will be great . We need to portray to the world pushtuns are not terrorist rather they are the worst victims of terrorism. Ghag radio will serve this cause well. we need peace, we need education, we need Bacha khani. daud