‘…aap sey mukhatib nahin hai’
Radio Pakistan Lahore has nearly stopped airing transmission on medium wave which would reach a larger audience — to the shock of many
By Alefia T. Hussain
So, it’s farewell Radio Pakistan Lahore 630 kHz that presented its last complete broadcast a fortnight ago. Or, not quite? For, the officials at the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) claim that the station can be heard out loud and clear. But try tuning in to 630 kHz and an annoying buzz greets you, and the age-old announcement, ‘Radio Pakistan Lahore aap sey mukhatib hai’ lost somewhere in air.
Now what does that mean? PBC Public Relations officer Mubashar Ahmed Majoka explains: "The transmission of Radio Pakistan Lahore aired at 630 kHz has not been shut down. Its hours have been reduced due to its outdated technology and huge cost of operation."
He says the regular transmission of the Radio Pakistan Lahore has been moved to the 5 kilo watt FM transmitter, and the broadcast has been increased from 110 to 150 hours weekly. "Once the technology is updated the broadcast will revert to its original," he tells TNS.
He insists that 630 kHz MW is not shut down completely "in fact the transmitter broadcasts the daily programme Punjabi Darbar regularly".
"Yes, the station broadcasts Punjabi Dardar every evening for about 30 minutes," confirms a Radio Pakistan Lahore announcer who prefers to remain anonymous. "But that’s the only programme the station runs. No announcement is made at the start or close of the transmission. The national anthem isn’t aired. The transmission starts and ends abruptly. This is not how it was done before."
She says that the decision to bring about such drastic changes at the station was made during the closed-door meeting held on Aug 15. The radio announcers were informed the next morning that the regular 5.45 am announcement at the start of the daily transmission was not to be made. "The station’s regular broadcast stopped as abruptly as that," she laments.
A senior Radio Pakistan employee corroborates. He says neither was a committee constituted to decide the fate of the station nor was a written statement issued to inform the staff of the changes. "Perhaps the need of the hour was to upgrade the transmitter; not close down an age-old channel that’s the country’s identity," he says, adding that so far the staff has been retained but there’s insecurity among them. "They feel the door can be shown to them any day."
It seems the Radio Pakistan Lahore has put money matters before popularity and public service. And certainly the consolation provided by the Radio Pakistan officials that the programmes continue as usual but on FM 93 appears to be a no-brainer. Look at the reach of MW (100KW), match it with FM (which in the case of FM 93 is 5 KW or 30 to 40 kilometres). Here, one wonders, is Radio Pakistan losing the plot. "MW provide audiences at the regional levels as opposed to local, and their numbers can be anywhere from hundreds of thousands to millions," says Adnan Rehmat, Media analyst and Country Director of Internews.
The potential audiences of the station, he elaborates, included both the heavy urban demographic in Punjab as well as the wide swathes of rural provincial heartland. "Closing down or even a scale-back of operations create dead broadcast space that leave information absence. If the broadcasts have been ceased or restricted, it should only be on the basis of a paucity of listening audiences."
He asks, "Were there audience surveys done on listenership to inform the decision to restrict broadcasts? If yes, these should be shared. If they weren’t done, then potentially large audiences were betrayed."
According to him, in the last five years local-level independent radio has caught on big time with audiences across vast swathes of Pakistan. "There are over 200 FM stations in the private sector licensed in Pakistan over half of which are on air and doing reasonable to roaring business. These stations have weaned away audiences from the state-run radio because of more relevant, more local and more hip information and programming. The government seems to be giving up the idea of improvement in programmes in favour of simply stop operating meaningfully."
The role of a public domain state-run radio stations, and as Rehmat aptly points out, is several-fold: it attempts to reach out for large audiences and address a wider variety of issues, such as farming, trading, health and more that may not be commercially viable for local stations. Basically, of educating segments on issues that find little commercial appeal but serve a critical role in addressing major information gaps.
Listening to Radio Pakistan Lahore on any frequency other than 630 kHz is unrecognisable. Suddenly, the nostalgia of years passed between 1937, when it was established, then All India Radio, and now comes alive. Announcement of the creation of Pakistan in 1947, the milli naghmas of 1965 and 1971… the station has seen a glorious past. Saadat Hasan Manto, Shaukat Thanvi, Mirza Adeeb, Sufi Tabassum, Ashfaq Ahmed, A Hamid, Nasir Kazmi, Syed Razi Tirmazi and many more worked for the station. Most were underpaid. Musicians, Amanat Ali Khan, Mehdi Hasan, Shaukat Ali, Noor Jehan, Fareeda Khanum and many more lent their voice to the station. One is reminded of Mohni Hamid, known to all children of the day as Apa Shamim, and the announcers Mustafa Ali Hamdani, Azizur Rehman and Akhlaq Ahmed Delhavi.
A Hameed in his column ‘Lahore Lahore Aye: Lahore Radio’s lovesick trees’, that appeared in Daily Times of Oct 22, 2006, writes: "I was associated with the Lahore radio station for close to 45 years as staff artiste. My friendships were mostly with singers, composers and instrumentalists. Those radio years gave me the opportunity to get to know artistes who had few, if any, equals. They were such nice people also, seldom asking anyone to share their burdens, which were considerable. They were people of such childlike simplicity that even inconsequential things would make them happy."
For Yasmeen Tahir, who has served the station for 35 long years, it’s tough to push aside the rich culture of Radio Pakistan Lahore aside and move on. "I am shocked," she says. "Radio Pakistan Lahore gives me my identity. I am known for the radio programme I did. I was probably the first to introduce one to one conversation with listeners on radio."
She adds: "The way forward for the station is not closing down or reducing the airtime. It has to fight for its survival by making the listeners feel how important it is. It must be restored to its original form - with better quality programmes."
The face in the radio
By Ali Sultan
For the longest time I was only into The Doors, The Beatles, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. Take your pick, The White Album, LA Woman, Dark Side of the Moon, Physical Graffiti, one of these albums, one of the songs on them would always be playing in the room. This went for a long time, until one day, one of my friends got sick and tired by either my complimenting one of Paul’s basslines or wildly playing airdrums to a Led Zeppelin song and spilling tea all over the keyboard, again.
My friend, who had a tendency to hang out in my room most of the day, then in desperation, brought me a tape, and said, if I recall exactly, " Get a life, here is a band that makes beautiful music, no one is dead in it and you have to hear it, or our friendship is over." I wish my friend had sobbed after saying this, (it would have sounded extremely dramatic) but there was no sobbing, just a plain stare that meant business. Because I did not want our friendship to end I agreed to give it a try.
What I heard that night was something I didn’t really like at first, (The album was OK Computer and the band was Radiohead) but OK Computer is my generation’s Dark Side of the Moon — complex and catchy songs surrounded by wobbly, atmospheric music that suggests that the band is up to more than fans will ever figure out, even if they listen to the album every day.
The lead singer and main songwriter, Thom Yorke, had essentially three singing styles: a tired snarl, a reedy drone, and a light falsetto. His performances rarely got far before the words dissolved into a moan. Yorke’s lyrics were sombre expressions of juvenile depression: cars are dangerous, robots are no fun, plastic surgeons do sad, thankless work. His lyrics became shorter and more oblique, often ending in sentence fragments that were repeated again and again, as if such persistence would give the words greater meaning.
I didn’t tell my friend what I thought. I knew that he loved the album and somehow me not liking it would affect our friendship, so I persisted, listening to it when I was in the mood and somehow several of the band’s songs got lodged in my head, and I discovered that the fog around the music disappeared a little and Radiohead’s luminous teamwork came more clearly into view.
Radiohead’s gift was creating compositions thick with intricate harmonies. Yorke, as his predecessor Michael Stipe once did, played his voice the way his bandmates play their instrument. Radiohead sounded like an instrumental band that happens to have a singer.
But Radiohead’s main interest was not improvisation, nor do the band’s affinities to modern classical music and electronica mask the fact that its dominant preference is pop. The songs changed and became something totally different and were larded with hummable riffs.
Slowly and steadily the love for Radiohead grew, and became one of my favourite bands and when my friend shifted to the US and our lives drifted apart unavoidably I smile when he posts something on Radiohead on Facebook and I remember what we shared and always will.
Exhibition of paintings by prominent artists at Coopera Art Gallery,
70 The Mall,
Lahore till Aug 30, Sunday.
Paintings Exhibition by various artists at Revivers Galleria
till September 15.
The gallery remains open from 11 am to 9:30 pm.
Exhibition: Fahd Burki’s new works on display at Grey Noise till Sep 20.
Gallery timings: 5-7 pm.
Exhibition titled ‘Shedding Load’ at Gallery 39K till Sep 20, Sunday. Timings: 6:30-10 pm.
The exhibition brings together artists from different backgrounds under one roof.
Ghazal Night at Peerus Cafe every Friday at 9pm.
Jazz Night at Peerus Cafe every Saturday at 9pm
performance by Jazz Moods.
Puppet Show at Alhamra, The Mall every Sunday at 11pm.
Exhibition of Ehsan ul Haq’s works at Rohtas Gallery till Aug 30, Sunday.
Should Bagh-e-Jinnah, valued most as a botanical garden, stay with the Agriculture Department or be handed over to the Parks and Horticulture Authority?
By Saadia Salahuddin
The handing over of Bagh-e-Jinnah to the Parks and Horticulture Department has started formally. Two committees formed by Director Floriculture and Director PHA, comprising four members each, have started the handing over process.
The chief minister’s secretariat Punjab had issued a directive to hand over Bagh-e-Jinnah to the Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) which "shall ensure that the park is very well maintained and kept in an immaculate fashion." Interestingly, Bagh-e-Jinnah won the first prize in the competition of Best Parks, 2008-09 because of its proper maintenance and upkeep. Year after year Bagh-e-Jinnah has been winning annual/seasonal flower competitions as well. The park has been under the care of Agriculture Department, Government of Punjab, since 1904. So, what’s the point in giving over the park to PHA?
Director General PHA Raheal Siddiqui, when asked what the PHA would do with Bagh-e-Jinnah, said, "We are going to maintain it. We will retain the staff. There will be no commercial activity in Bagh-e-Jinnah."
Director Floriculture Dr Tariq Iqtedar says, "If the PHA has only to look after it then what are we here for? The Floriculture Department has people who have the education and expertise to take care of parks. A number of staff in the PHA got training from the Floriculture Department. "
But DG PHA says, "We have 700 parks under PHA, only one more is being added to this number." The new DG PHA finds the extension of the Quaid-e-Azam Library building inappropriate. "The library extension should all have been underground".
This is the sixth attempt of the PHA to take control of Bagh-e-Jinnah, says a senior officer at the Agriculture department. The first attempt was made in 1996-97, as a senior official in the Agriculture Department recalls. This time the attempt on Bagh-e-Jinnah has been made by Mohsin Latif, Chairman Task Force on PHA who happens to be Kulsoom Nawaz Sharif’s nephew. The people at the helm of affairs at the Agriculture Department and those at the Floriculture and Landscaping Department were not consulted. The notification issued from chief minister’s secretariat, Punjab, on July 18, 2009, directs the Commissioner Lahore Division "to coordinate with the department/authority to get the directive of the chief minister implemented."
One would ask why the need for government departments if such big decisions like handing over the most precious garden in the country to an autonomous body is done arbitrarily.
Last week, the government appointed a new deputy director at Bagh-e-Jinnah, Malik Abid Mehmood, who was serving the CDA before this but he has yet to arrive in person at the garden.
The parks which compete with Bagh-e-Jinnah are under the PHA. The Bagh-e-Jinnah stands out among the gardens in the city because of many reasons but primarily because it is most valued as a botanical garden and is considered a treasure trove of unique varieties of trees, plants, shrubs, creepers and seeds.
There are many other reasons why it should stay with the Agriculture Department and not be handed over to the PHA. The table below compares the facilities, the cultivations and the initiatives at Bagh-e-Jinnah with ones in the parks under PHA:
The main function of Bagh-e-Jinnah from the point of view of its botanical importance is quite unique. It is not only serving as a source of germplasm (a germplasm is a collection of genetic resources for an organism) but as a laboratory for students from different disciplines. For plants, the germplasm may be stored as a seed collection or for trees in a nursery. There are about 6000 trees and shrubs here, both indigenous and of exotic variety which makes this garden special, not just in the country but in the subcontinent.
Besides being a botanical garden, it is advancing towards establishment of a Tissue Culture Laboratory in collaboration with Lahore College for Women University. There is a botanical garden of the Government College University here while it is also attached with the University of Agriculture Faisalabad. The garden which is under the administrative control of the Agriculture Department Punjab has been a laboratory to research scholars and interns for generations.
There is a Floriculture and Landscaping Training Centre in Bagh-e-Jinnah since 1987 which trains people for free. It is worth mentioning that up till now 2707 students have passed out from the Floriculture and Landscaping Training Centre, Bagh-e-Jinnah, Lahore. Apart from a good number of college and university students, it has trained a number of people who are now serving PHA, many started their own nurseries after getting training from here and this training gave many farmers the initiative to cultivate flowers on acres of land. One can say that Bagh-e-Jinnah has been playing a role in boosting up the economy as well by helping people initiate new businesses. To facilitate the researchers, three green houses have been setup during the last quarter century, one in 1985 and other two in 2006 where different plant species are being developed.
Bagh-e-Jinnah is floriculture’s operational wing. Taking it away from the Agriculture Department would be like taking away Mayo Hospital from King Edward Medical College, says a professor of botany.
Apparently, the parks under PHA’s control are kept very neat and clean but Bagh-e-Jinnah is maintained as much, probably more, keeping in view the great number of shrubs, creepers and trees there apart from nurseries.
The representatives of Punjab Agriculture Workers’ Association allege that the Minar-e-Pakistan was under Archaeology Department till a decade back when the PHA took control. The ground had many trees there at that time. Now there is none.
"PHA took Shalimar Gardens in 2004 only to return it to the Archaeology Department. Then PHA took control of the gardens at GOR three years ago which were looked after by PWD, used up all the funds meant for maintaining gardens in the GOR and then quit," says one.
There are around 200-300 staff members at the Bagh-e-Jinnah who are working for the beautification and upkeep of the garden besides adding new species of plants to it, making it richer with every passing day.