“Lagta hai waqt tham gaya hai. Rawan dawan zindagi ruk gai hai. Kayi dinon se bistar per laitay laitay soch raha hun ke azaadana harkat bhi Maalik ki kitni bari naimat thi.”
“It seems as if time has paused and life has stopped. I’ve been lying in this bed for so many days and thinking what a blessing the freedom of movement itself was.” These were the last words of Tariq Aziz before he left the Pakistanis with a void that can never be filled.
Aziz was born in 1936 in Jalandur, British India, and migrated to Pakistan along with his family. Tariq Aziz was a man of firsts, he was the first male television anchor, the first Pakistani game show host, the first to represent our culture onscreen and subsequently the first to influence it. He joined Radio Pakistan in the 1960s and soon became popular for his crisp and recognizable voice. When in 1964 Pakistan Television (PTV) broadcasted its first-ever transmission, Aziz had the honor of being the first male presenter. He soon became known for his multitalented personality, being versatile enough to interview, compere, and recite poetry during the channelʼs golden days.
The list of Azizʼs accomplishments doesnʼt end here. Aziz, being a man of many talents soon became the heartthrob of millions when he appeared on the silver screen. His debut film ‘Insaniyatʼ presented him alongside Waheed Murad and Zeba. Soon other films followed, some of which were also Nigaraward-winning, such as ‘Saalgirahʼ, ‘Haar gaya Insanʼ, and many more. Tariq Aziz was also quite fond of politics and was a big supporter of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. He was one of the ‘jiyalasʼ willing to go to any extent in defending and authenticating their chairman. Due to his influence and popularity among the people, he was a favored presence in all the jalsas of the Pakistan Peopleʼs Party (PPP) and often hyped up the crowd with his firebrand rhetoric. He was devastated when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was executed in 1979. In the 1990s Aziz resurfaced as a politician when he was elected as a member of parliament on the Muslim-league ticket.
Despite his interest in politics, and acting, his main loyalty was to the word, particularly poetry. He had a command on the spoken word and the Urdu language which helped his skills as an announcer and made him fully in charge of the radio, television, and then the public stage where he was asked to host many programs.
“Dekhti ankhoun aur suntay kaanon ko Tariq Aziz ka salaam pohanche”. Sounds familiar, right? This trademark opening sentence was something whole generations of Pakistan grew up hearing. This was the opening of Azizʼs most memorable work, his show ‘Neelam Gharʼ, which aired in 1974 and was Pakistanʼs first game show that was broadcasted from Karachi. It became an instant hit and would go on for four more decades, becoming the longest-running TV show in Pakistan. Later in the 90s, he changed the name to the “Tariq Aziz Show”, which would finally become “Bazm-e-Tariq Aziz”. This show came to PTV when there were very few options of entertainment. People from all over Pakistan enjoyed the show and learned a lot from it. The show had segments for trivia, debates, interviews, and poetry competitions (bait-baazi). The winners went home with various gifts and prizes, which also gave small business owners a bit of commercialization for their product. A win-win for all!
Aziz soon became known for his iconic line, “Yeh water cooler aap ka hua!” Perhaps the key to his success was his regard for his co-hosts and audiences alike. He would often introduce his female co-workers before himself and treated all sorts of people around him equally. Though not without his ostentatious charms, he spoke with expression and devotion for Urdu that has since rarely been replicated in the game shows currently shown on television networks.
There are a few losses that can never be possibly forgotten, and the loss of Tariq Aziz is one of them. A man of charm, full of devotion for his work and unmatched love and admiration for his country. Aziz served Pakistan and its people for decades, and in a tweet, announced that all his wealth and asset to Pakistan will be donated after his death.
He wrote in Urdu,
“Allah Pak ne mujhy aulad nahi di ye Khuda ki qudrat hai jise chahe de jise chahe na de aur jise chahe de ke wapas le le. Main marne ke bad apni saari jaaidad, dolat Pakistan ke naam krta hon.”
“Allah has not rewarded me with children, as it was all his power, therefore I announce to donate all my wealth and assets to Pakistan.”
And with his last token of love for his country, he left us on June 17, at the age of 84. Surely, the end of an era!