Despite the all out, gung-ho military operation against militants in the Khyber tribal agency, the banned outfit Lashkar-i-Islam’s pirate radio is still operational and broadcasting sermons of its chief Mangal Bagh. The battles over hearts and minds thus continues. If the army has guns and tanks, these militants still have words… fiery, incendiary words.

In 2007, Maulana Fazlullah, a.k.a Radio Mullah, head of the Pakistani Taliban, went on Pakistani radio and denounced vaccinations as a conspiracy of Western nations to render Muslims infertile. A few years before that, a handful of political and religious leaders in Nigeria advocated the boycotting of polio vaccinations, claiming the products were contaminated with sterilisation agents, HIV or cancer. This misinformation on the part of these fanatics has paralysed children and continues on. This is just the tip of the iceberg with regards to how Radio Mullah has destroyed the fabric of our society with paranoia and fear. In Pakistan, the so-called Radio Mullah’s exhortations also found an audience, and he was given an assist in 2011 with the release of the American movie “Zero Dark Thirty,” which fictitiously connected the CIA to an oral polio vaccination ruse that was part of an attempt to catch Osama bin Laden.

Many villagers listening to Mangal Bagh’s sermons are terrified. He often hurls threats against tribesmen calling them infidels. However, the speeches were very frequent before the start of the Khyber operations but are now less frequent. In Pakistan, for many of us, what we see on TV and what we hear on the radio waves is real. As a nation we are a discontented and cynical one, rather than a logical and critical group of people. If Mangal Bagh is preaching on pirate radio, he is sure to have followers. Where is the counter-narrative? Who is the army preaching to? Or the government? Or the technocrats, bureaucrats, liberals and economists? Only to the choir, not to the masses.