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.

Pakistan to link Middle East with Karachi, Gwadar soon through ferry service

Updated 31 min 10 sec ago

Pakistan to link Middle East with Karachi, Gwadar soon through ferry service

  • Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and Malaysia are interested in shipping lines with Pakistani carriers, Maritime Ministry official says
  • A $1.8 billion bridge would link Karachi Port with Port Bin Qasim under CPEC

KARACHI: Pakistan is in the final stages of starting ferry service linking Middle Eastern ports with Karachi and Gwadar deep-water port as the go-ahead is expected next week, says Mahmood Moulvi, Adviser to Ministry of Maritime Affairs.

“Ferry service will be launched from Karachi port to Dubai, Oman and Bandar Abbas (Iran). We want to facilitate pilgrims by providing them alternate routes,” Moulvi said in an exclusive interview with Arab News.

He added that “the service will be completely in the private sector and the role of government would be of facilitator.”

Pakistan is currently in the process of amending its shipping policy of 2002 to accommodate more players with the aim to make it business friendly. “The amendment process is in final stages and will be approved, hopefully, in a month as the progress is at the advance stage,” Moulvi informed.

The confidence of foreign investors is being restored with growing interest of Saudis, Singaporean and Malaysian investors in shipping lines, he said. 

“Singaporean investors are coming in April to finalize the details for starting vessels. We are asking them to come up with Pakistani flag carriers,”, he added.

“Roughly, we estimate that around $8-10 million per ship investment would be made. We initially expect two ships to come up to test the waters,” Moulvi said adding that “Pakistan will be in position to minimize around $4.5 billion freight cost that is being paid to foreign shipping companies.”

Recently Khalid A. Al-Falih, Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources for Saudi Arabia and Chairman of the Board of Saudi Aramco, during his visit to Gwadar, expressed kingdom’s interest in investing in logistics. 

“It was our proposal to have joint venture in the oil transportation. We asked them to transport oil in their own tankers because after the completion of oil refinery they would need it on permanent basis,” Moulvi, who was accompanied by the Saudi delegation, said.

Apart from crude oil, Pakistan is one of the major importers of palm oil mainly from Malaysia. During the 8 months of current fiscal year Pakistan has imported 2,052,681 metric tons of palm oil worth $1.24 billion. “We are also proposing Malaysians to come up with palm oil carriers with Pakistani flags. We would pay them in Pak Rupee instead of paying in US Dollar which would reduce the burden on foreign exchange,” Moulvi said.

Pakistan government is also planning to link its two major ports with the help of China under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). “The exact cost of the bridge would be $1.8 billion with $30 million per mile. China wants to bring the project under CPEC otherwise it would be on Built Operate Transfer (BOT) basis. The bridge would consist of a railway track and oil pipeline,” the official said.

China is also interested in building a shipyard in Gwadar while another one is proposed in Karachi, apart from the one already operating. The completion of these shipyards would multiply the shipbuilding activities in the county.