LAHORE: Dekhti Ankhon aur Suntay Kanon ko Tariq Aziz ka Salam Pauhnchay — the voice behind this memorable soundbite is gone. Tariq Aziz, the iconic television host, breathed his last in Lahore on Wednesday.

He was 84.

According to Mr Aziz’s driver, Liaqat who has been with him since the 1990s, he was not feeling well since the previous night. His condition deteriorated in the morning and he was rushed to a nearby hospital, but did not survive. Tariq Aziz was diabetic and had a heart condition as well.

His funeral was held near his residence in Lahore’s Garden Town and he was laid to rest in Ali Block’s graveyard.

Namaz-i-Janaza was offered at Islamia Masjid, Garden Town.

According to Tariq Aziz’s family, Quran Khawani will be held on Thursday (today) between Asr and Maghrib at his house, 157 Garden Block, New Garden Town. But the family has advised the public to pray for him at their own homes.

Not many people from showbiz turned up at the funeral, but there were a good number of people, as well as DSNGs, from the media.

Prominent figures from the entertainment industry were actor Qavi Khan, Nurul Hassan, Khalid Butt and Sohail Ahmed.

Many important personalities took to Twitter to offer condolences.

Versatility personified

Tariq Aziz was a man of many talents. Besides being an accomplished television host, he was a film actor, politician, writer and poet.

He was born in 1936. Tariq Aziz’s family came from Jalandhar, in present-day India. He received his early education in Jalandhar. He was a trendsetter and had the distinction of being the first man to be seen on Pakistan Television’s first broadcast in 1964. Tariq Aziz and Kanwal Naseer were the face of PTV during its early days.

His booming, energetic voice still rings in the ears of generations of PTV viewers from the 70s to the 90s and even later.

“Dekhti Ankhon aur Suntay Kanon ko Tariq Aziz ka Salam Pauhnchay” served as the opening lines of his internationally acclaimed TV show, Neelam Ghar, which was first aired in 1974. It was later renamed as Tariq Aziz Show and after that as Bazm-i-Tariq.

Tariq Aziz was a political activist during his college days. He joined the Pakistan Peoples Party in 1970 and won recognition as a firebrand socialist.

He also served as a member of the National Assembly between 1997 and 1999.

In 1997, Aziz was elected to the National Assembly from Lahore on a Pakistan Muslim League-N ticket and served as an MNA till October 1999.

After the takeover by retired Gen Pervez Musharraf, he joined his political party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Q.

During his early career in Lahore, he lived like a vagabond. As he had no place to live in the city, he used to sleep rough. Then he started living in a small room at Lower Mall, near Karbala Gamay Shah.

His film career spanned the late 1960s and the 1970s. One of his famous movies was Salgira (1969), which turned out to be a highly acclaimed musical and won two Nigar Awards.

Along with Waheed Murad and Zeba, Tariq Aziz starred in Insaniyat (1967) and in Har Gaya Insaan. He later appeared in several television programmes and morning shows.

Tariq Aziz was a literary figure too and had a passion for poetry. He wrote in both Urdu and Punjabi. His memory in this genre was prodigious and verses seemed to flow from his tongue at the touch of a button.

He was honoured with the Pride of Performance award in 1992.

Condolences

Prime Minister Imran Khan said in a message on Twitter: “Saddened to learn of the passing of Tariq Aziz, an icon in his time and a pioneer of our TV game shows. My condolences and prayers go to his family.”

Shahbaz Sharif, the PML-N chief, termed Mr Aziz a patriot and one who proved his mettle in whatever he did.

Arshad Khan, the PTV chairman, the Managing Director of PTV, Aamir Manzoor, and the General Manager of PTV’s Lahore centre have sent messages to the widow.

The Executive Director of Lahore Arts Council, Saman Rai, in her condolence message said Tariq Aziz had a decade-long association with Alhamra Art Centre, where he used to record shows for Neelam Ghar. “He was an institution within himself. The void created by his death cannot be filled.”

Shahid Nadeem, a former deputy managing director at PTV and executive director of Ajoka, said with Tariq Aziz’s death, a golden chapter in the annals of PTV had closed.

“Aziz had an inimitable voice and ran the longest show in PTV’s history. His contribution to Pakistan Television is undying.”

Actress Mahira Khan tweeted: “Legend is what legend does. He served us all for so long. Pakistan is indebted to you Tariq Aziz Sir. Truly, the end of an era.”

A nostalgic friend

Dr Mehdi Hassan, a childhood friend, said in his recollections that he knew Aziz since his school days. Mr Hassan said Tariq Aziz joined radio as an announcer in 1961. “I used to work with Progressive Papers Limited. My salary was Rs165 and Tariq Aziz used to draw Rs150. We used to live in a small room on Lower Mall near Karbala Gamay Shah and I used to pay the room rent.

“Since rented rooms didn’t have fans, we had to brave the suffocating heat. But after some time the heat became unbearable. So I requested the Law College Principal to allow us to live in a room at the hostel during summer vacations. The principal obliged us and we were able to breathe freely.”

Mehdi Hassan said that he spoke with Mr Aziz by phone on Tuesday night since one of his friends said he wanted to interview Tariq Aziz about Munir Niazi.

“Tariq told me since he was not well, I should ask my friend to call him after 10 minutes. That was the last time I heard his bewitching voice,” Mehdi Hassan recalled, his voice choking with emotion. According to Mr Hassan, Tariq Aziz’s father, Mian Aziz, used to bring out a fortnightly magazine from Sahiwal and was a member of the Majlis-i-Ahrar.

Ayub Khawar, a PTV producer, recalled that Tariq Aziz was among the pioneers of PTV, sharing the distinction with luminaries like Fazal Kamal, Agha Nasir and Fayaz-ul-Haq.

“His collection of Punjabi poetry, Hamzad Da Dukh, is a thought-provoking offering.”

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2020