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ABDUS SALAM was one and the last of the five legendary Urdu news readers of Radio Pakistan. Others included Shakeel Ahmed, Anwar Behzad, Warasat Mirza and Shamim Ejaz.

Born in the city of Ajmer Sharif in Rajhastan, Abdus Salam belonged to a lower middle class family. He joined Radio Pakistan, Hyderabad, as a technical operator in its engineering department. But he found himself a misfit there. He had some other obsession. His ambitions never let him sit contented. He wanted his voice to be heard by millions of people.

The self-made Abdus Salam resigned from his regular service following his selection as national news reader. He joined afresh the Central News Organisation (CNO) of Radio Pakistan on a contract basis. Later, he was made a staff artist and was subsequently given regular appointment.

From there his illustrious career began. Groomed literally by Dada (as he was called) Shakeel Ahmed, he attained the enviable position for his masculine ‘kharaj’ voice, faultless pronunciation, unique style of delivery of words, correct stresses and pauses, brilliant news sense and the required confidence to meet emergent situation that arise so often in the broadcasting world.

Abdus Salam also read news bulletins on Pakistan Television for many years. There also he left his indelible footprints to be followed by his successors.

It was the ill-fated evening of June 29, 1992, when Abdus Salam had left the National Broadcasting House for home on his scooter after recording news commentary (to be broadcast the next morning) and reading out the main 2000 hours news bulletin.He had hardly travelled a distance of 100 yards that a speedy motorcyclist hit him from behind with a big bang. His multiple injuries were so serious that after remaining in a coma for two days, he died on July 2. His death was widely mourned.

After his tragic death, Radio Pakistan made the recording of his opening announcement of news as a permanent feature of its main bulletin. It was aimed at paying homage to this great news reader.

But, for unknown reasons, this practice has been discontinued, maybe because the format of news bulletins has now been changed or he was considered a thing of the past. Those at the helm of affairs in this national organisation should give a rethinking to this effect.

The legend was posthumously awarded ‘Pride of Performance’. He was also the recipient of many awards for ‘Best news reader of the year’.

Abdus Salam was a great human being. He was loved and respected by all. He would continue to be remembered for his numerous personal qualities as well.

ANIS SIDDIQUI Ex- Controller News, Radio Pakistan, Islamabad