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Kabul Challenges Pakistan's Ban On Afghan TV Channels

Afghan Information and Culture Minister Said Makhdom Raheen
Afghan Information and Culture Minister Said Makhdom Raheen
Afghanistan's Minister of Culture and Information has criticized a recent ban imposed on Afghan TV channels by Pakistan's government, saying it does not benefit either country.

Talking to RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan by telephone, Sayed Makhdoom Raheen said that he will directly discuss this issue with Pakistani officials and ask them to reopen the TV channels as soon as possible to Pakistani viewers.

Pakistan's Electronic Media and Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) on August 29 blocked nearly 28 foreign TV channels, including several Afghan TV channels, from being broadcast by cable operators in Pakistan.

Asked if he would take similar action in response to the ban, Raheen replied that "Afghanistan's policy is to open, not to close down TV channels."

"They have closed our TV channels in Pakistan, but we do not do the same in Afghanistan," he added.

Raheen emphasized that the regional countries should try their best "to build closer ties through each other media outlets."

RFE/RL's correspondent in the Pakistani city of Quetta reports that most Afghan refugees in Pakistan are interested in Afghan TV channels that offer news and recreational programs.

The channels enjoy some popularity among Afghan refugees in neighboring Pakistan. Twenty-year-old Ehsanullah, an Afghan University Student in Quetta, told RFE/RL that he hoped Pakistan would reopen the banned channels. Noor Agha, another Afghan refugee in Quetta, said that such television channels as Ariana, Shamshad, and Lemar have been major sources for Afghans in Pakistan's north-west to get information about news and events back home.

Osman Kakar, the Leader of the Awami National Party in Pakistan's Khybar Pakhtunkhwa province, condemned the ban and called on the Pakistani government to reopen the channels.

The Afghan channels have been banned in Pakistan in the past, but the bans were lifted later after protests by Afghans living in Pakistan.