For the record – Peshawar sets up first digital library

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A view of the library at Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation, Peshawar center. (AN photo)
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Music librarian at PBC, Irfan Kamal, showing one of the spools of songs. (AN photo)
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A spool of Pashto songs from June 1970 in the library. (AN photo)
Updated 12 September 2018

For the record – Peshawar sets up first digital library

  • Archives 12,000 songs, 400 Pashto and 400 Urdu audio dramas
  • Playlist includes songs by nearly 500 singers

PESHAWAR: For residents of Peshawar, this is music to their ears.

With an aim to adapt to technological change, the city -- rich in culture and heritage and capital of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province – has decided to set up its first digital library which will house more than 12,000 Pashto songs. 

“We decided it was time to adapt ourselves to the modern age and because these audio records are an asset to us, we needed this digital archive and hence decided to set it up,” Laiq Zada Laiq, Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation’s (PBC) Peshawar station director, told Arab News.

“We have digitalized 10,000 hours of recordings so far,” Laiq said, adding that the PBC collaborated with the Muhammad Yaqoob Bangash Memorial Audio Library for the project.

Among the gems archived are songs by almost 500 singers, including an interview of the first station director, Aslam Khattak, and several audio dramas. The library also houses hundreds of cassettes and spools -- placed in cupboards above which photos of old Pashto folksingers are displayed. Prime among its treasures are old audiotapes and rare photographs of iconic singers and artists.

The library, named after Muhammad Yaqoob Bangash, a former station director, was the brainchild of his son -- Shaukat A Bangash, Chief Executive Officer of Quaid-e-Azam International Hospital Islamabad.

Shaukat, who bore all the expenses for the project, told Arab News that he set up the library as a tribute to his father. “My father served the Peshawar station as director for a long time which is why we decided to set up this library. Before this, artists and researchers did not have records of any past activities,” he added. 

While the library is not currently open to the public, Shaukat is of the opinion that online access to the digitalized recordings – which is the main aim of the project -- will be given in due course.

The PBC was established in 1935 as the Provincial Broadcasting Station, in Peshawar, but was renamed the All India Radio station two years later. After the partition in 1947, however, its title was changed to Pakistan Broadcasting Service, which later became the Radio Pakistan in the 1950s. In 1972, Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation was founded with Radio Pakistan and Pakistan Television Corporation becoming its subsidiaries. 

Discussing PBC Peshawar station’s history, Shaukat said that the-then British rulers understood the importance of the local Pashto language which is why they inaugurated the Peshawar station, in Pashto, in 1935.

Irfan Kamal, a music librarian at the PBC, told Arab News that the library can facilitate researchers, writers and those interested in studying an artiste or the music. “Around 12,000 files of songs, 400 Pashto audio dramas and 400 audio dramas in Urdu have been digitalized,” he added.

Senior producer at the PBC, Bilal Khan, said that though the library has an archive of its own productions -- since the Peshawar station’s establishment in 1935 -- they also house older programs and spools gifted by people. “We also have catalogues of program details, such as names of the producer and other participants.”

Dr Humayun Huma, a drama writer associated with the radio since 1952 when he wrote his first Pashto drama “Salor Zara Rupai” (Four Thousand Rupees), said that he was glad to see the library’s establishment, but added that the government should provide funds to the PBC to enable it to produce dramas, songs and other programs. “Production of audio dramas has plummeted a lot nowadays due to the scarcity of funds,” he said, adding that this would provide for a good revival platform.

Almas Khalil, another popular Pashto singer, said that it is necessary to preserve local culture and the library, in that sense, is a step in the right direction. “We also don’t get much in terms of wages for our profession, but it is heartening that at least our services were acknowledged in the shape of a library to preserve our work,” he added.

A thought echoed by renowned Pashto and Coke Studio singer Zar Sanga.

Sanga told Arab News that the digital archive library is an appreciation of the singers’ work. “It will keep our voices alive for the coming generations,” she added.

Karachi police chief asks his cops to be clean, lightly armed

Updated 23 September 2018

Karachi police chief asks his cops to be clean, lightly armed

  • Karachi police to replace Kalashnikovs, Sub Machine Guns (SMGs) with pistols and revolvers for officials on patrol, escort and picket duties
  • Taking back automatic assault weapons from policemen in a city such as Karachi, where people and groups are heavily armed, is not a wise decision, says former IG Sindh, Afzal Ali Shigri

KARACHI: The chief of police in Pakistan’s seaside megacity of Karachi has introduced reforms in an effort to win public hearts.

“The police persons should be nicely dressed, should be neat and lean and should demonstrate good manners,” Dr. Amir Ahmed Shaikh, the city police chief, told Arab News.
Shaikh, on Saturday, issued a notification, reading; “SMG/automatic assault weapon should not be displayed or pointed toward general public during escort movements or mobile patrolling.”
The directives, from Shaikh, which were forwarded for strict compliance to his subordinates, read: “All assault weapons are to be replaced with pistols/revolvers.”
According to priority, the motorcycle squad will have only pistol or revolver.
For escorts, police patrolling mobile, picket points and Madadgar, 15 mobiles will be allowed to have one SMG each. The rest of the police on these duties will have pistols only.
“It has been observed with great concern that all police persons deployed for patrolling, pickets or escort duties are armed with SMGs, and the display of automatic assault weapon in an urban setting not only scares people but also results in casualties in a case of even accidental firing,” reads the notification.
Shaikh, in an interview with Arab News, said he has carried this and all other measures to reform the police who are infamous.
“I am making police people-friendly. I want a police force which is loved by the people and upon seeing them, criminals should run away,” Shaikh said. “Currently the people are running away from the police. It hurts me a lot that the police are defamed due to a few.”
Shaikh said that he had identified 197 officials who are black sheep of the police force. “Policemen are involved in kidnapping. Would anyone call them policemen? They are kidnappers, they are criminals. They are dacoits but they have no more any place in police force,” the enthusiastic police officer vowed.
Although his good intentions are hailed by many, former officials have criticized the decision of taking automatic weapons back from the police.
“It’s no less than a suicide to take back automatic weapons from police in a city where huge caches of arms are recovered on a regular basis,” Afzal Ali Shigri, former Inspector General of Police Sindh, told Arab News.
In the 1980s, Shigri recalled, the policemen in Karachi would have sticks to deal with criminals. “But it’s not Karachi of those past times. It has remained a center of violence although peace has been restored. The city has faced every type of actors of violence which exists in this country. The city has been host to sectarian, ethnic violence besides hardcore terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Islamic State-inspired youths,” he said.
Shigri said even the common people are armed. “How do we expect police with a pistol to deal with a criminal having an assault rifle?” he asked.
One has to take several aspects before taking such major decisions, the former IG said, adding that instead of AK-47 and other assault weapons with a large range, the police should be armed with close-range weapons like the MP5, which are good for urban centers.
Shaikh said that after assuming power as city police chief he has not only focused on finding black sheep within an otherwise great police force but is also working on building their capacity.
On Saturday another notification issued by Shaikh reads: “It is to state that since last two years no firing refresher courses have been arranged for the constabulary, so training should be provided.”
In his letter to principals of the Saeedabad and Razzakabad police training colleges, Shaikh has requested firing training for 540 policemen in the first phase.