Viral social media video makes unseen voice artist a household name in Pakistan

Malick was born and brought up in Quetta, the capital city of Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province, where she finished high school before moving to the country’s financial hub of Karachi to study interior design at the prestigious Indus University. (AN photo)
Updated 12 July 2019
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Viral social media video makes unseen voice artist a household name in Pakistan

  • Malick is behind several popular voiceovers for airlines, cell phone companies, TV commercials and restaurants
  • Previously unknown outside her industry, a video of her reading out some of her most famous lines has turned her into a celebrity

KARACHI: If you’ve flown on Pakistan’s national flag carrier, ordered a meal from a popular multinational food chain, watched Turkish television plays dubbed in Urdu or simply used a mobile phone connection, chances are you’ve heard Farheen Malick’s voice.
A Karachi-based voice artist and radio jockey, Malick sits at the apex of an industry whose stars are mostly unseen. A month ago, no one would have recognized her face even though hers is the reassuring and measured voice behind one of the most ubiquitous messages in Pakistan — the pre-recorded voice prompt that tells you that the person you are trying to call has switched off their phone: “Aapka matlooba number iss waqt band hai, baraye mehrbani kuch dair baad koshish kejiye (The dialed number is powered off, please try later).”
Despite being a voice Pakistanis hear on a daily basis and with a career spanning over a decade, Malick was for long unknown to most outside her industry. But all that changed last month when a video of the voice artist reading out some of her most famous lines went viral on social media and she became the household name she had always dreamt of being. 
“I was literally crying a day before [the video went viral], thinking that though my voice is everywhere, no one knows me,” Malick, in her thirties, told Arab News in an interview. “But now people instantly recognize that I’m Farheen Malick.”
“I think this is a real accomplishment,” she said, beaming. “The feedback I received after the video went viral made me feel as if I was truly paid for my work for the first time.”
Malick was born and brought up in Quetta, the capital city of Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province, where she finished high school before moving to the country’s financial hub of Karachi to study interior design at the prestigious Indus University.
Malick said she had never thought she would end up becoming a voice artist, though from an early age she had always loved studying the sounds made by humans, animals and birds. As a child at home, it was a race against all her other family members to be the first to pick up the phone when it rang and say hello.
“When I grew up, I regularly tuned into radio programs which inspired me to become an RJ and eventually a voice artist,” she said.
The first time Malick was chosen by a private telecommunications company to record an interactive voice response (IVR) for its automated call handling system, she said she could not even pronounce some of the words correctly. But she practiced saying the message hundreds of times and in dozens of different ways and when it came recording time, she got it just right.
“It felt that I had accomplished something great,” Malick said, describing her feelings after her first successful IVR recording.
Since then, she has worked on dozens of projects that have become a part of the average Pakistani’s life.
“Aap ka maujuda balance is call kay leye na-kafi hai, bara-e-mehrbani recharge kejiye” (Your balance is insufficient for this call, please recharge) and aap ka matlooba number dosri call per masroof hai, itizaar kejiye (Your dialed number is busy at the moment, please try later),” Malick said, listing some of her most famous work. She is also the voice behind announcements for popular TV shows and at the bank, it is her gentle voice that summons customers when it’s their turn to come up to the counter.
To hone her skills, Malick said she pays close attention to the work of other radio presenters, though she wishes the government would set up training institutes for voice artists.
“I used to listen carefully to Dr. Yasir, Saleem Hasan and Pervez Bashir to improve the quality of my work,” she said, listing the names of veteran voice and radio artists. “I also learned a great deal from radio commercials.”
But there is a downside to Malick’s recent fame. Since her video went viral, people have given her many nicknames, not all of them flattering. 
“Some people call me Phone Baji (sister) or Phone Aunty,” she said with a smile. “But it doesn’t offend me. In fact, I really like it. At least people are amused by my work and respond to it in their own way.”


No change in instructions on purchase of foreign currency by banks, clarifies central bank

Updated 53 min 23 sec ago
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No change in instructions on purchase of foreign currency by banks, clarifies central bank

  • Some media outlets misinterpreted the updated version of Foreign Exchange Manual, causing confusion
  • Commercial banks cannot replace exchange companies, says Malik Bostan

KARACHI: Pakistan’s exchange companies would continue to play their role in the country’s economy, clarified the State Bank of Pakistan on Monday, noting that there was no change in the instruction on purchase of foreign currency notes by banks who were already allowed to deal in international currencies through authorized branches.
The confusion was caused when some local and foreign media outlets misinterpreted the updated version of the central bank’s instructions in its Foreign Exchange Manual, thinking that the country’s currency exchange companies were being drive out of business and commercial banks were going to assume their role. 
“SBP is in process of revision of Foreign Exchange (FE) Manual in phased manner. In this respect, seven chapters (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 & 20) of FE Manual have been revised and circulated through FE Circular dated November 29, 2018, in the first phase. In phase II, three chapters 8, 9 & 11 have been revised through FE Circular No. 03 of 2019 dated July 16, 2019,” a statement issued by the central bank said. 
One of these revised chapters, 11, includes regulations on “Dealings in Foreign Currency Notes and Coins etc. by the Authorized Dealers (banks).”
“With respect to revised Chapter 11, it has come to our notice that there are some confusions/misinterpretations regarding Para 2 suggesting that SBP has allowed the banks to sell/purchase foreign currencies to/from public by amending the existing regulations,” the SBP said while clarifying that no such amendment had been made.
Currency dealers also said they were playing a vital role for the country’s economy "that cannot be downplayed."
“Banks were already authorized to undertake foreign exchange currency business through authorized branches, but they did not take interest in currency dealing which is evident from the fact that only a few of them established such branches,” Malik Bostan, president of the Forex Association of Pakistan, told Arab News on Monday.
Bostan added that “we are operating on meager profit that commercial banks can’t afford to make.”