ISLAMABAD: Legendary broadcaster, intellectual and progressive ideologue Aslam Azhar died on Tuesday at the age of 83, family sources told The Express Tribune.
He will be laid to rest at the capital’s H-11 graveyard today (Wednesday) after Zohr prayers. He had undergone prostate surgery last month and was stable. On Tuesday he got choked and died at home.
Azhar leaves behind his wife, Nasreen Azhar, a human rights activist, two sons – Osama and Arieb Azhar – a daughter and a large number of friends, colleagues and admirers to mourn his death.
Born in September of 1932 in Lahore, Azhar did his bachelor’s from Government College Lahore. After completion of his Masters in Law degree from the Cambridge University in 1954, Azhar, a man of many talents, joined the Department of Films and Publications as a freelancer.
Azhar, having experience of theatre and broadcasting, was asked on November 26, 1964, to run a three-month pilot project at the lawns of Radio Pakistan, Lahore. The project was a success due to the untiring efforts of Azhar and his team.
He very quickly brought together a first class team of designers, cameramen, writers and artists and established stations at Karachi, Lahore and Quetta, bringing quality programming and latest equipment.
Azhar has to his credit among other initiatives, like the first PTV award ceremony of 1982-83, Music 89, marathon transmissions on 1970 elections and the Islamic Summit held in Lahore. He produced “Roobroo”, hosted by Mohsin Sherazi, which became quite popular. ‘Khuda ki Basti’ and many other plays got new lease of life under his able leadership.
Before the 1977 elections, Zulikar Ali Bhutto made him head of the PTV Training Academy. He remained associated with the radio and television in various capacities until the end of Benazir Bhutto’s first government in 1990 except for the ten years rule of General Ziaul Haq.
With General Ziaul Haq in the saddle, Azhar had to move to Karachi where he started Dastak Theatre group to highlight issues of working classes. Short plays on social themes relating to workers, students and women were adapted, translated and performed.
He played Galileo in Bertolt Brecht’s play ‘Life of Galileo’ on the golden jubilee of Progressive Writers’ Association held in Karachi in 1986. During the first government of Benazir Bhutto, he was appointed chairman of both Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) and the PTV.
After his retirement, he remained associated with the Beaconhouse School System for some time. In recognition of his services, the government conferred upon him Tamgha-i-Imtiaz in 1968.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2015.