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"Wavescan" is a weekly program for long distance radio hobbyists produced by Dr. Adrian M. Peterson, Coordinator of International Relations for Adventist World Radio. AWR carries the program over many of its stations (including shortwave). Adrian Peterson is a highly regarded DXer and radio historian, and often includes features on radio history in his program. We are reproducing those features below, with Dr. Peterson's permission and assistance.

Wavescan, June 21, 2009

The Early Wireless Era in Pakistan

As we are so painfully aware these days, the Asian country of Pakistan features frequently in the bulletins of international news. The peoples of this country have undergone the ravages of warfare, the massive destruction of earthquakes, and the harsh realities of weather extremes, ranging from freezing blizzards to searingly hot summer winds.

It is an ancient land whose origins go back more than four thousand years to the time when a major civilization constructed large cities on the banks of the Indus River. Their writings have never been deciphered even to this day.

Even though the atlas does not seem to give us this picture, yet Pakistan is quite a large country. It is sandwiched in between India and Afghanistan, and it extends one thousand miles from the tropical Arabian Gulf to the high wintry mountains on the edge of the Himalayas. Their capital city is the modern Islamabad, their largest city is commercial Karachi, and their total population is in excess of one hundred million.

The national language of Pakistan is Urdu, written with a variation of the Arabic script, though large numbers of the people, particularly the educated younger people, also speak English. In addition, there are also many regional languages, such as Punjabi, Sindhi, Baluchi, and several mountain tribal languages.

The development of wireless communication took place quite early in Pakistan, though in those days these areas were still provinces, or states, within what was then the old British India. These stations operated under the early primitive system of wireless communication, using electrical, spark transmitters and Morse Code.

History tells us that the first wireless station that was erected in the territory of Pakistan was located in the port city of Karachi and it was on the air under the callsign WKR. In those days, callsigns had not yet been regularized on an international basis, and it would appear that the letters "WKR" did have a meaning: the letter "W" indicating "Wireless," and the letters "KR" standing for "Karachi Radio." This station was inaugurated for Morse Code communication with shipping and for regional communication within British India in the year 1913.

Interestingly, it would appear that another similar station was established in Lahore around the same era, though there are no known records listing this facility. What happened was that an Italian explorer on an expedition to Central Asia frequently determined his exact location, his longitude, by means of wireless signals transmitted from Lahore. If that information is correct, then we could guess that the wireless station in Lahore might have had a similar callsign to the station already on the air in Karachi. The Morse Code identification for the station in Lahore station could then have been, "WLR," standing for "Wireless, Lahore Radio."

The official lists of wireless stations throughout the world inform us that a series of four new wireless stations were installed in major cities of Pakistan, soon after the end of World War I, all in the year 1919. By this time, international radio conferences had allocated regularized callsigns for wireless and radio stations in each country throughout the world, and British India was allocated callsigns beginning with the letter V, honoring the magnificent and lengthy reign of her majesty Queen Victoria.

These new wireless stations in Pakistan were identified as:

VWK Karachi
VWP Peshawar
VWQ Quetta
VWL Lahore

Just a few years later, all of these spark wireless stations were upgraded to valve, or tube operation, and new callsigns were granted to each, as the 1933 list shows. Thus the station in

Karachi became VVK
Peshawar VVP
Quetta VVQ
Lahore VVL

Interestingly, around this era, two additional radio communication stations were installed in Karachi, one for communication and the other for direction finding; and an additional new station was installed up north in Rawalpindi under the callsign VVX.

Thus it was, back in the late 1930s, that there was now a total of seven communication radio stations on the air throughout the territory that is now known as Pakistan.