AGHA Nasir, who passed away in Islamabad on Tuesday, was a leading light in the world of broadcasting and culture. Those who knew him well are certain to cherish his memory for the rest of their lives.
A man of many talents and numerous interests, he was my senior at Pakistan Television (PTV). Since he was way above me in the hierarchical ladder, any intimacy with him during those years was impossible. Our professional interaction was also non-existent as we belonged to two different cadres of the organisation.
Nevertheless we succeeded in developing a degree of familiarity with each other as time went by. We used to meet at social gatherings quite often — mostly in Islamabad, but in Karachi and London as well.
Agha Nasir was many things to many people. He can be defined as a radio and television producer, a senior executive of broadcasting institutions and, besides that, an acclaimed writer; but it was his vast and rich contribution to the growth of television in the country that assures a place for him in the hall of fame.
He played a pivotal, pioneering role in establishment and development of PTV as a national institution; in fact, the two were inseparable.
One can rightly say that the late broadcaster was one of those few fortunate individuals who were witness to a number of seminal events in the growth of television in this country. The bond turned out to be an enduring one, starting with the display of a TV set at an industrial exhibition in Karachi in 1962 and sustaining itself amid the mushroom growth of channels in the new millennium.
Born in Meerut, India, in 1937, Agha Nasir received his education in Karachi before joining Radio Pakistan as a drama producer in the early ’50s. Tasting early success as broadcaster, he immediately went on to establish himself as a frontline producer.
During the ’50s and ’60s radio drama touched new heights before television dislodged the medium. Agha later joined the pioneering team of professionals, headed by the dynamic Aslam Azhar, that launched television in the country.
He became an integral part of that initiative and succeeded in bringing together a highly motivated and energetic team. He conceived and produced some outstanding programmes, establishing a tradition of healthy entertainment.
He also introduced a number of new faces that went on to become household names in the television industry.
The marathon transmission of the 1970 elections, which also made use of talent from overseas, was visualised and executed by Agha Nasir.
As a senior bureaucrat in the television industry, he later served as the chief executive of Radio Pakistan, the National Film Development Corporation (Nafdec) and the Shalimar Television Network (STN) with distinction.
Unlike other executives in the state-owned media establishment, Agha Nasir proved to be an exceptional person. During his stints of varying length in various assignments, he managed to take out time to author six books — travelogues, personality sketches and compilations of his radio and television plays in the initial phase of his career.
It was said that he was a poet as well, but nothing ever surfaced from him in public on this account.
His book Gumshuda Log (People lost) is a gripping treatise on some selected personalities who are no longer in this world. Gulshan-i-Yaad (The Garden of Memory) is a remarkable narrative of some memorable events that Agha Nasir saw up close.
His proximity to a number of iconic personalities helped him to compile Hum Jeetey Ji Masroof Rahey, which amongst other things, is a great addition to the series of books written on the life and works of Faiz Ahmed Faiz.
Agha Nasir’s last venture was the compilation of a well-researched history of the institution with which he was formerly associated, entitled This is PTV – Another Day, Another World. It features an insightful reading for anyone who wants to learn about the trials and vicissitudes through which state television had to make its way.
A friend to many, Agha was an important face at literary, social and cultural gatherings. He will be greatly missed by all those who knew him.
Originally published in Dawn, July 13th, 2016