ZAFAR Siddiqi, a Pakistani who was truly one of a kind, passed away recently in Dubai. To the best of my knowledge, he was the first, and, so far, the only Pakistani in 77 years to blaze the trail in broadcast journalism in 26 Arab and over 50 African countries. This writer had the privilege of knowing him as a dear good friend for well over 45 years. Though a path-breaker in media, he kept a low public profile. His life and achievements should be far more widely known to inspire the youth.

Truly, his success in media for over 25 years became all the more extraordinary because, by professional qualification and practice, he was a respected chartered accountant. Around 1995, already a good friend, he visited me in Karachi to tentatively share his desire to enter the electronic media sector by producing, initially, business news bulletins and programmes for BBC and other overseas channels.

To find a viable option, we explored the feasibility from multiple and diverse perspectives. A BBC exploratory team took us seriously enough to visit us. When talks stalled, he finally decided to enter into an agreement with a private programme contractor. At this point, I was unable to continue, but wished him Godspeed, and our friendship stayed strong.

Encouraged by the progress with his new venture Telebiz, Zafar, with his vision and energy, fuelled by his supportive wife Seema, scaled new horizons of media entrepreneurship by the minute. Because of his integrity and acumen, he had a rare ability to motivate co-investors overseas who had not previously ventured into media.

In 2002, he began his international journey by introducing CNBC to all the Arab countries, making it the first international brand to broadcast in Arabic. Just three years later, he brought CNBC to Pakistan, and in the next two years, in the year 2007, he took CNBC to the whole African continent. On the way, with Dr Rakesh Wahi, he also co-founded Forbes Africa. Also in the same year, he launched a private television channel in Pakistan, followed by an FM radio channel, and both of them quickly reached top rungs.

However, with a phenomenal fervour, Zafar also passionately supported quality higher education, as chairman of the UAE campus of Murdoch University of Australia, and of Lancaster University in Ghana.

Moreover, he was also a distinguished Board Member of the Academy of Science and Arts in New York. Reflecting his spirit of sharing, his book, TV News 3.0: An insider’s guide to launching and running news channels in the digital age (2019, Blue Magpie Books, London) candidly conveys not only insightful and valuable infor- mation, but also advice garnered from deep experience.

Through many phases of success, he stayed always a humble person, with a ready, impish smile, and tonnes and tonnes of affection, forever willing to help and guide others. May this wonderful Pakistani’s soul be forever serene.

Former Senator Javed Jabbar
Karach

Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2024

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