By: Rashid Sami

Thirty-six years ago a cold morning saw Ayub Khan, then the President of Pakistan, inaugurate the first television station of the country in Lahore. The majority may not have understood the power of television at that time, but as time passed the medium became very powerful.

The miniscreen in any Third World country has always been a useful tool to project and justify the sarkari viewpoint. Khabarnama, other current affairs programmes and coverage of state owned/sponsored programmes have always been the prime priority since television started operations in this country.

Entertainment programmes have always taken a backsent and there have been innumerable instances when plays, no matter bow famous, were dropped if a government statement had to be made.

Restrictions and “fear of the unforeseen” made all the governments refuse to support the establishment of private television networks. It was not only the current affairs programmes that were used as a political tool against rivals, but television plays like Neelay Hath, Tapish etc, were produced for projecting the political view of the governing party.

This “fear”, which has airways haunted Islamabad, has also restricted foreign investment in the local private productions. When Zee Network, UTN and other satellite channels tried to make way into the Pakistani private production industry, the relevant official quarters opposed the deal issuing strong press statements.

Red-tapism is not the only reason which hampered private investment n a Pakistani-based satellite network. The total advertising revenues of the country exceeds just over 250 million compared to around 4000 million in India. Whereas privatization of major slots on PTV network, PTV World and now Channel Three, rather than supporting and enhancing the revenue, has had an adverse effect. The discounts offered in air-time has not only stopped the increase in advertising revenue, it has also harmed the client-advertising revenue, it has also harmed the client-advertising agency relations when the channel operator or investor on a time slot offers “direct” discounts to the advertiser.

November 27, 2000 saw the celebration of the 36th anniversary of Pakistan Television. This time the venue was Karachi. Guests started reaching the city a day before, and those who attended included Shahnaz Sheikh, Shabbir Jan, Firdous Jamal, Sania Saeed, Naheed Siddiqui, Nayyar Kamal, Shahida Mini, Abid Ali, Muneeza Hashmi, Shahzad Roy, Farooq Qaiser, Jehangir Khan, Zaheer Abbas and Behroz Subzwari. Statements of Aslam Azhar and Agha Nasir were telecast through a pre-recorded interview. The hosts included Shehla Qureshi, Sana, Abdullah Kadwani, Bushra Ansari, Anwar Maqsood, Jawaid Sheikh, Qaiser Nizamani, Qazi Wajid and Laila Zubairi.

It was a commendable effort on the part of the management and the producers, but most of the hosts selected were misfits, as they were anything but proper compares Jawaid Sheikh and Abdullah Kadwani fumbled a great deal. Farooq and Muneeza Hashmi as Muneeza. A show, which was supposed to be a tribute, was converted into a current affairs programme with long statements, that too coming from the hosts and not from the guests.

Shehla Qureshi sarcastically questioned Qazi Wajid’s preference of quantity over quality, Anwar Maqsood taunted Shahida Mini over receiving an award owing to her dresses and jewellery than her performance Jawaid Shaikh and Shehla interrupted the guests with their own long comments. At one time the intercom rang twice as Anwar Maqsood questioned the government/ administration over issuance of NOC to commercial “dancers” and refusing Naheed Siddiqui’s kathak performance. Sana was so overwhelmed by the presence of Muneeza Hashmi and Farooq Qaiser that the referred to them as “serious and sanjeeda” personalities. However, the overall quality of transmission was up to the mark with impressive and creative sets, choice of the archive footage and overall treatment. The transmission also had a liberal treatment to it.

The live event concluded with Nayyar Kamal cutting the cake in the presence of Mohsin Ali, Akhter Waqar Azeem, Iqbal Lateef, Ghazala Yasmin, Athar Waqar Azeem and others.

Now a comment about the drama of the week. Teleworld’s Znidagi Khwaab Nahin is one play which has attracted female viewership. A story of Iffat, played by Nirma, who is married to an elderly person, played by Abid Ali. The negative attitude of the inlaws turns Iffat into a schizophrenic. The cast includes Asad, Zoya Butt and Tauqeer Nasir.

PTV has a list of religious programmes to offer in Ramadan Mere Sarkar Kay Qadam Jehan Jehan Phunchay, Nishan-e-Rah, Mehfil-i-Naat, Mehfil-i-Samah, Bab-ul-Islam, Urs Hazrat Sachal Sarmast and Harf-i-Dua are amongst the scheduled programmes.