Qatar Urdu Radio started its official transmission from January 1, 1980 with hosts Saif-ur-Rehman and the late Hajra Bano Sulaiman.
Saif-ur-Rehman, who has spent 38 years with Qatar Urdu Radio (QUR), recalled that during an Islamic Conference gathering in Qatar in 1979, a host from Radio Qatar recorded speeches of guests in Urdu that came from the Subcontinent. When the speeches were broadcast on the radio, a rumour began to spread about the launch of a new Urdu channel in Qatar.
“I went for voice test and recording with three other friends and although I didn’t prepare anything for the test, somehow I was selected. I was the one who said the very first words that launched Urdu radio in Qatar,” the popular radio personality remarked.
The decision to start Urdu Service was subsequently taken by Abdulrehman Saif al-Madhadi, who was the director of Qatar Radio, under the directives of the then Minister of Information Dr Issa Ghanim al-Kuwari. Urdu Radio was a small part of Qatar Radio in the initial stages and its broadcast ran from 4pm to 5pm and later changed from 7pm to 8pm as per the feedback from the listeners.
"The duration of Urdu Service extended from one hour, to two, three, five and seven hours before it was transformed to a 24-hour service in July 2011,” Saif-ur-Rehman explained.
The frequencies at which the channel was heard also changed over the years. It started from 300 meter band 1062 kilohertz in 1980 but currently it runs on FM107. Saif-ur-Rehman added that Urdu Service quickly gained popularity in Qatar and that at one point he used to receive letters in such great numbers that he didn’t even have enough space in office to keep them.
“Our first landline number was 328200 and the postal address was PO Box 3939. The feedback was amazing and I remember we used to receive so many letters that we had rooms full of letters.”
Urdu Service was heard to not only in Qatar but also in Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and some parts of Saudi Arabia, he added.
Talking about the popularity of Urdu Radio back in the day, Saif-ur-Rehman said that he once received a phone call from a person who tuned in to the radio from the top of a telephone post.
“The listener said he was speaking from the sky when we asked where he was calling from. I was very confused at first but then he explained that he was working on one of the telephone posts of Cable & Wireless, which is what Ooredoo was called in those days.”
Among the people Saif-ur-Rehman interviewed, he recalled the former President of Pakistan the late Zia-ul-Haq and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as the memorable state official guests interviewed on Urdu Service.
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